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Home may be better for kids, judge tells asylum-seeker

17 June 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

A High Court judge told a Filipina torture claimant to respect other people and other countries and teach her children the right concept of appreciating possibly better opportunities in their own homeland.

Court of First Instance Judge Josiah Lam gave the advice to Virginia L. Caramat, a torture claimant who faces deportation with her three children after the Immigration Department’s Torture Claim Appeals Board rejected her application for non-refoulement.

Caramat appeared before Judge Lam on Jun 12 seeking leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision of the Immigration Director and the TCAB.

Non-refoulement claims are heard by Immigration Director and the TCAB under the government’s Unified Screening Mechanism introduced in March 2014 for refugees who fear harm upon returning to their country of origin.

Caramat told Lam she wanted her children to grow up in Hong Kong because it is safer to live here than in the Philippines or in her divorced husband’s country, Pakistan.

She claimed she fears for the safety of her daughter, aged 16, and two sons aged 13 and 18, allegedly because her elder brothers is threatening to harm them if they return to the Philippines because they are Muslims.

The applicant also claimed she does not want to return to Pakistan because they do not respect women in that country and that she could not work there.

In her application, Caramat did not include her children, so Judge Lam gave her a form and told her to add the names and birth dates of her children so that they would be covered by her application.

She said the youngsters’ father is a Pakistani named Iqbal who Caramat married after she converted to Islam in 1997. All three children were born in Hong Kong.

The family lived in Pakistan for a while but the couple divorced in September 2010. As she had no job, Iqbal took custody of the children and Caramat returned to Hong Kong alone in April 2013.

Iqbal came to Hong Kong in April 2014 and turned the children over to Caramat. He left afterwards and Caramat did not see him again until August last year, when he came after their youngest son had a heart attack and was in coma.

Iqbal returned to Pakistan three months later and came back in January when his sick son underwent surgery. Then he left for good in February, Caramat said.

Caramat said she relied on International Social Service allowances for her and the children’s sustenance.

The only ground Caramat cited for applying for leave to apply for a judicial review is her wish to keep her children safe in Hong Kong. She added she is afraid that Christian Filipinos will harm them as the kids are Muslim.

“I will do everything to protect them from harm from the Christian communities. I want to keep them away from the threats of my elder brother,” Caramat said. She added that she wants the children to grow up here because it is a safe place for them.

 “No, you have also to respect other countries as they may also have better future in other countries. While it is hard to find a better place for your children, it is right that you instill in their minds the right concept,” the judge said.

The judge said the Philippines or Pakistan could still offer the children a better future.
He told Caramat he would send her his written decision in due course.

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