Three families that sheltered U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden when he was hiding in Hong Kong in 2013 are facing possible detention and deportation from the city after their claims for asylum were officially rejected, their lawyer said Monday.
The asylum-seekers include two men and a woman from Sri Lanka, and a woman from the Philippines, along with their three children who were born in Hong Kong and are stateless.
Four years ago, they took Snowden into their cramped Hong Kong apartments when he was trying to evade authorities after carrying out one of the biggest intelligence thefts in USA history, releasing thousands of classified documents, including information on USA surveillance programs around the world.
Tibbo added that Hong Kong authorities believe his clients have not presented sufficient evidence, despite Snowden saying publicly that they had given him shelter.
HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong authorities have rejected asylum requests from a group of refugees who sheltered Edward Snowden four years ago, in what their lawyer said is retaliation for helping the former NSA contractor.
Tibbo said today Canada must allow these seven people into Canada while it processes their refugee claims because there is little chance they will be able to remain in Hong Kong.
The refugees have said previously they were specifically asked about their links to Snowden by Hong Kong authorities.
The families' legal team say they will appeal the decision. They have two weeks to appeal, BBC reported on Monday.More news: China's Xi outlines plans for wide cooperation in trade plan
Hong Kong is not a signatory to the UN's refugee convention and does not grant asylum.
The families have said they are too scared to return homes in Sri Lanka for fear of persecution. "I don't want to be tortured".
Asylum seekers, from left: Ajith Pushpa Kumara, Vanessa Mae Rodel and her daughter Keana, Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and her son Dinath and daughter Sethmundi Kellapatha, and Supun Thilina Kellapatha, pose outside the building of Hong Kong's immigration department in Hong Kong, Monday, May 15, 2017. Less than one percent of refugees succeed in their efforts, leaving around 11,000 now in limbo and constant fear of deportation.
Neither the asylum-seekers nor their lawyer revealed their role in Snowden's journey.
After government screening, claimants found to be at risk of persecution are referred to the UN's refugee agency, which can try to resettle them to a safe third country.
Marc-Andre Seguin, a Canadian lawyer representing the group in their Canadian application, told RTHK they appeared to have been targeted by Hong Kong immigration officials.
The migrants "now find themselves at dire risk if sent back to their countries", said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch.