On Thursday 22 July, Hackney Chinese Community Services (HCCS) hosted a roundtable discussion between London Deputy Mayor Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard and organisations providing services to support Hongkongers arriving in the UK. Individuals shared their experiences in arriving and settling in London, and discussion centred around how to welcome and assist the new community.
The largest cohort of Hongkongers to arrive in the UK are expected to be in London. The government has thus allocated a £900,000 grant to City Hall to support the newcomers with housing, education, employment and other services.
Some may be arriving as asylum seekers but many will also be arriving under the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa, both as individuals and with their families. This scheme was introduced by the Government earlier this year.
At our roundtable, guests included the London Council Member representative to the MHCLG Taskforce, Cllr Muhammed Butt; the Lead Cabinet Members from the Hackney Cabinet, Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas for Welcoming Hong Kongkongers; and Cllr Carole Williams for Vulnerable Migrants. Officers on the GLA Migration Team and LB Hackney ESEA Lead Officer Soraya Zahid also attended.
Eleven groups and individuals from throughout the UK were also present. Participants included Hearth Talk UK, Hong Kong Aid, Hong Kong Assistance and Resettlement Community, Hongkongers in Britain, Hong Kong Link Up, Hong Kong Watch, London City Mission, St Martins in the Field Chinese Congregation, Sutton Hongkongers Group, The UKHK, Welcome Hong Kongers Project, Sutton Hongkongers Group, Waltham Forest Chinese Association, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Refugees Council, Nathan Law, Victina Tse, and Hilda Tsui.
Jabez Lam, HCCS’s centre manager, chaired the session, and Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard opened the meeting by outlining the role of the GLA as the Strategic Migration Partner to support HongKongers.
At the GLA, new posts are being created to help HongKongers, to research their needs and map out existing services and gaps. The GLA can then support those voluntary community and social enterprise (VCSE) Organisations serving them.
Julian Chan, of Hongkongers in Britain, presented research on Hongkongers’ preferred destinations of settlement in the UK. Richard Choi, of the Sutton Hongkongers Group, presented a report, produced in collaboration with UKHK, on HongKongers’ demography. Hilda Tsui and Venus from Hong Kong Aid both spoke of their experiences as immigrant / asylum seekers who came and settled in the Uk.
The meeting then opened to the floor to discuss the type of support the GLA and councils could provide community organisations. Discussion focused on ensuring safety, government policy in the future, and ensuring the longevity of the project beyond the first year of funding.
The meeting concluded well, with the Deputy Mayor stressing the importance of having trauma-informed approaches for young people. She assured attendees that the meeting was the beginning of a partnership to support Hongkongers by working with delegates, and London Councils and boroughs. She thanked participants for sharing their experiences and challenges. Lunch was then served, followed by networking amongst delegates.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London said in his press statement, “I want to be very clear to Hongkongers and their families who have begun arriving in the capital that they are very welcome in London.”
GLA indicated that it will be, “working with organisations, including Hong Kong Arc, Hongkongers in Britain, Hackney Chinese Community Services and Refugees Welcome to discuss how best to support the community and address any concerns they may have.”
Chit Chong, a Trustee of Hackney Chinese Community Services said, “As a charity we are non-political, we are determined to support HongKongers seeking settlement in the UK. Hackney Chinese Community Services is committed to supporting all ESEA groups in the UK who may experience difficulties in accessing public services. We look forward to working with the Mayor and the attendees of our roundtable to support all new Hong Kong arrivals.”