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Hong Kong

Utopia: A day in the life of a Hong Kong asylum seeker

From the Greek ou (not) and topos (place), utopia literally means ‘non-place’. Through this lens, Hong Kong is a utopia, a ‘non-place’ for asylum seekers. Home, too, is remote, indefinite – a utopia that might never be seen again.

I am an invisible man. I am here, yet I am unseen.

My days are spent in search of something, anything. They say that I am lazy, but they do not understand. All I ask is to be given the right to work, to be self-sufficient. Without this, I am nothing. A man without a job is a man without respect. The years are passing me by.

Without a sense of purpose, I languish somewhere that is, in fact, nowhere. I live in a 2-by 3-metre room in a dilapidated building in Kowloon infested with rats and cockroaches, a place where the trash is never removed, and the murmurs of others echo day and night; the stairwells smell of urine and rotten food and the discarded materials of a hard city. For this privilege, my landlord demands money I do not owe – money I do not have, money I cannot earn.

Home is a small country in Africa that exists only in my mind. I used to own a shop there until they burned it to the ground. My political activism was too dangerous for them and I have the scars to prove it. They destroyed everything. Now, I have nothing. I cannot stay nor can I return. But I beseech you: Do not pity me.

Our large family house was filled with the sound of laughter and joy and a feeling of safety and love. We used to sit on the front porch in the cool evening breeze and look out to sea, contemplating the infinite possibilities that lay beyond. From time to time, I sit by the harbour in Hong Kong and look out to sea, searching in vain for a place I once knew.

  "From time to time, I sit by the harbour in Hong Kong and look out to sea, searching in vain for a place I once knew."
“From time to time, I sit by the harbour in Hong Kong and look out to sea, searching in vain for a place I once knew.”
  "Near my new home in Kowloon, where I live in a 2-by 3-metre room"
“Near my new home in Kowloon, where I live in a 2-by 3-metre room”
  "All I ask is to be given the right to work, to be self-sufficient."
“All I ask is to be given the right to work, to be self-sufficient.”
  "My days are spent in search of something, anything."
“My days are spent in search of something, anything.”
   "I live in a 2-by 3-metre room in a dilapidated building in Kowloon..."
“I live in a 2-by 3-metre room in a dilapidated building in Kowloon…”
   "...A place where the trash is never removed; the stairwells smell of urine and rotten food and the discarded materials of a hard city."
“…A place where the trash is never removed; the stairwells smell of urine and rotten food and the discarded materials of a hard city.”
  "A man without a job is a man without respect."
“A man without a job is a man without respect.”
"My political activism was too dangerous for them and I have the scars to prove it."
“My political activism was too dangerous for them and I have the scars to prove it.”
"Without a sense of purpose, I languish somewhere that is, in fact, nowhere."
“Without a sense of purpose, I languish somewhere that is, in fact, nowhere.”