Offer HK 'residents to be' benefits, says NGO

Updated: 2016-01-05 08:06

By Luis Liu in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Around 100,000 families waiting for One-Way Permit 'in need of assistance'

A major social welfare concern group has urged the government to review its policy and enhance support to the city's roughly 100,000 "residents to be" - spouses to Hong Kong residents who are still holding a family visit visa - it says desperately need more assistance to integrate into society.

The Society for Community Organization (SoCO) said the city's Social Welfare Department (SWD) would start the research process on the request soon.

According to the Home Affairs Department, there are more than 100,000 such cross-border family cases in the city, most of which involve mainland women waiting to join their husbands in Hong Kong. Some 70 percent of these families have children, SoCO added.

According to SoCO, newly married cross-border couples who file an application for a One-Way Permit have to wait for four years on average to get the permit issued by the central government. This allows mainland residents to leave the mainland permanently to settle in Hong Kong.

Among all those waiting, 79 percent would stay in Hong Kong with a family visit visa, according to a survey by SoCO last August. But they face many difficulties, such as economic problems, (77.8 percent) and hardships in adapting to a new life (61.7 percent).

Since they do not have Hong Kong ID cards, they are always rejected by counseling, educational and vocational training or other social welfare services.

The group's community organizer Sze Lai-shan urged the government to set up dedicated welfare arrangements to help them integrate into society.

The SWD has promised to start the research process and give staff better guidelines on assistance available.

Sze's view was backed up by Chan Wai-hung, member of Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association. Chan further argued that this was more of an institutional problem as such spouses should not be categorized as merely family visitors since they had settled here with their families.

However, leading local social welfare expert Law Chi-kwong said giving welfare to non-Hong Kong residents might not be fair to taxpayers.

Instead, he urged the mainland authorities to speed up the approval of One-Way Permits to address the issue.

(HK Edition 01/05/2016 page6)