Freedom – above all: Refugee Perspectives

As told to Mhairi McLaughlin and Rivekie Ho. 

Annie* arrived in Hong Kong over a year ago, after being trafficked into a forced marriage in Mainland China. She is originally from Madagascar. Although living in limbo as an asylum seeker, she talks about the importance of freedom.

Photo: Chris Davey.

How long have you been in Hong Kong?

I think now it is around a year and three months.

What is your impression of Hong Kong?

Life here is really hard – it is really difficult.

What is the difficult thing about being here?

Hong Kong is an expensive city. We aren’t allowed to work here as asylum seekers.

Can you tell us a bit about your life before Hong Kong?

There were some people in our home country who said that we could come to China to work.

They promised good opportunities. But actually what they were doing was arranging for young Madagascan women to be sold into marriage with older Chinese men in some remote villages.

I met a few other women on the same flight to Fuzhou, we didn’t realise that we were taking a plane to be sold into a marriage.

Once you know what is happening, once I knew – the only way out of it is to escape. We had visas in the beginning but they needed to be renewed over the border.

The agent who arranged these marriages, who misled us, was a Madagascan woman. She took me to renew a visa and brought me to Hong Kong but when I wouldn’t come back to stay with this man I had been forced to marry, she took my passport away. She gave my passport, and the passports of other women back to ‘husbands’, back in China. So now I am stuck here.

Serving up rice to go with salad and langue de boeuf aux petit pois. Photo: Chris Davey.

But I did not want to stay in China in that situation so I had no choice but to stay in Hong Kong without papers, until I surrendered to Hong Kong immigration. This was after about three months.

If we could get our passports back, we would just go home. But at least we are free in Hong Kong.

When your passports were taken away and you stayed in Hong Kong, did you ever worry that this agent would come back for you?

Yes – maybe. I am scared. But I think as well, she should be more afraid of me, because she has my passport and the passports of these other women.

She could get caught [for human trafficking]. We did hear she came back to Hong Kong some time ago.

What was life like for you before in your home country?

I just had a normal life, attending school, doing typical things with family.

*name has been changed

Editor’s note: To read similar accounts, please read on here and here.

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