Refugees in Hong Kong

Refugees in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, known for its bustling cityscape and thriving economy, also hosts a hidden community – refugees searching for safety and a better life. Every year, individuals from war-torn countries and areas of conflict, such as Syria and Afghanistan, make their way to this bustling metropolis in search of asylum. However, their journey is far from easy, but organisations such as Equal Justice ( is a community that provides free legal education, information and support for this disadvantaged group.

Refugees in Hong Kong face numerous challenges and obstacles, including a lengthy and complex legal process to seek refugee status. Many find themselves in limbo, unable to work, access social services, or fully integrate into society. They rely on support from local NGOs and humanitarian organizations to survive and navigate the legal system.

Despite their hardships, Hong Kong refugees demonstrate resilience and strength as they strive to rebuild their lives in this foreign land. Amidst the skyscrapers and neon lights, their stories remain largely untold. In this article, we delve into their experiences, shedding light on the realities they face and the impact that their presence has on the city.

Join us as we uncover the untold stories of refugees in Hong Kong and explore the challenges they overcome in their quest for safety and belonging.

The legal framework for refugees in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s legal framework for refugees is complex and often leaves individuals in a state of uncertainty. Unlike many other countries, Hong Kong is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention, making it challenging for refugees to seek asylum. Instead, refugees must apply for “non-refoulement” claims, which assert that they should not be returned to their home countries where they may face persecution. However, the lengthy process can take years, leaving many in legal limbo.

The Hong Kong government has the power to determine refugee status, but the criteria are strict, leading to a low recognition rate. As a result, refugees often face the constant fear of deportation and the uncertainty of their future. The lack of a comprehensive legal framework and clear guidelines for refugee protection exacerbates the challenges faced by individuals seeking safety in Hong Kong.

Despite these obstacles, numerous NGOs and legal aid organizations work tirelessly to support refugees during the legal process. They provide legal advice, representation, and assistance with documentation, helping refugees navigate the complex system and increase their chances of obtaining refugee status.

Challenges faced by refugees in Hong Kong

Refugees in Hong Kong face many challenges that impact their daily lives and well-being. One of the most pressing challenges is the inability to work legally. Asylum seekers are not granted the right to work, leaving them dependent on limited government assistance or informal employment, which often comes with exploitative working conditions. This lack of economic independence further hinders their ability to rebuild their lives and contribute to society.

Access to healthcare and education is another significant challenge for refugees in Hong Kong. While the government provides some basic healthcare services, specialized care and treatments are often inaccessible, leaving refugees with limited medical support options. Similarly, access to quality education is limited, with many refugee children facing barriers to enrollment and challenges in their educational journey.

Language barriers also pose a significant challenge for refugees in Hong Kong. Cantonese is the primary language spoken in Hong Kong, and the lack of proficiency in Cantonese makes it difficult for refugees to communicate effectively, access services, and integrate into society. This linguistic barrier further isolates refugees and restricts their opportunities for social and economic integration. Refugees’ limited access to social services. Asylum seekers are often excluded from government welfare programs, leaves them reliant on the support provided by NGOs and humanitarian organizations like Equal Justice and Hong Kong Dignity Institute ( This lack of access further marginalizes refugees and hinders their ability to rebuild their lives in Hong Kong.

Organizations and initiatives supporting refugees in Hong Kong

Despite refugees’ challenges in Hong Kong, various organizations and initiatives work tirelessly to support and empower this vulnerable community. NGOs such as Equal Justice and Hong Kong Dignity Institute ( , the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC), Justice Centre Hong Kong, and Christian Action provide legal aid, counselling, and essential services to refugees.

These organizations support refugees during the legal process, ensuring they can access legal representation and advice. They also provide assistance with basic needs, such as housing, healthcare, and education, helping refugees navigate their new lives in Hong Kong.

In addition to NGOs, community-led initiatives aim to promote social integration and empowerment for refugees. For instance, the Refugee Union encourages refugees to actively participate in community activities, advocate for their rights, and foster a sense of belonging in Hong Kong.

These organizations and initiatives are vital in providing support, raising awareness, and advocating for the rights of refugees in Hong Kong.

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Public perception and misconceptions about refugees in Hong Kong

Public perception and misconceptions about refugees in Hong Kong can often be influenced by limited understanding and misinformation. Stereotypes and negative stereotypes can contribute to the marginalization and stigmatization of refugees, hindering their integration into society.

One common misconception is that refugees burden the economy and social services. However, studies have shown that refugees can benefit their host communities economically and culturally. By allowing refugees to work legally and providing them with opportunities for education and training, they can contribute to the local economy and enrich the cultural fabric of Hong Kong.

Another misconception is that refugees are a security threat. This perception is often fueled by fear and misinformation. In reality, refugees have undergone rigorous screening processes and are fleeing conflict and persecution in their home countries. Challenging these misconceptions and promoting a more accurate understanding of refugees’ experiences and contributions is essential.

Ways individuals and the community can support refugees in Hong Kong

Supporting refugees in Hong Kong is crucial in helping them rebuild their lives and integrate into society. There are several ways individuals and the community can contribute to this effort:

  • Volunteering: Individuals can volunteer their time and skills with NGOs and organizations working with refugees. This can involve providing language support, mentoring, or assisting with educational programs.
  • Advocacy: Advocacy plays a vital role in raising awareness about the challenges faced by refugees and promoting policy changes. Individuals can support advocacy campaigns, sign petitions, and engage with policymakers to advocate for refugees’ rights.
  • Employment opportunities: Businesses and employers can help refugees by offering employment opportunities and internships. This can provide refugees with valuable work experience, enhance their integration, and contribute to their economic independence.
  • Community support: Welcoming refugees into the community can make a significant difference in their lives. Simple acts of kindness, such as friendship, language exchange, or inviting refugees to community events, can foster a sense of belonging and support their integration

Conclusion: The future of refugees in Hong Kong

The future of refugees in Hong Kong remains uncertain, with ongoing challenges and a need for systemic changes. The legal framework for refugee protection needs to be strengthened to ensure a fair and efficient process for determining refugee status. The government should also consider allowing refugees to work legally and have access to social services to promote their independence and integration.

The community’s support and understanding are essential in creating an inclusive society where refugees can rebuild their lives with dignity and opportunity. By challenging misconceptions, advocating for policy changes, and providing practical support, we can help refugees in Hong Kong find safety, belonging, and a brighter future in their new home.

Liz McCaughey & AM Team

MsC., MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

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Battle Over the Teenagers Digital Usage Behaviors

Battle Over the Teenagers Digital Usage Behaviors

Today’s teenagers are digitally native, born into a world where online connectivity is the norm. This digital generation heavily relies on social media and online gaming platforms as primary sources of entertainment, socialization, and self-expression. This article delves into the impact that social media usage and online gaming behavior have on the emotional and social well-being of teenagers, the potential risks and benefits, and the role of parents in providing guidance.

Social Media Usage

Social media has become an integral part of teenagers’ lives. Platforms such as Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter serve as virtual spaces for teenagers to connect, communicate, express themselves, and share their experiences. But, with the increasing prevalence of these platforms, there is growing concern about the risk of exposure to inappropriate messages, cyberbullying, excessive usage, or even addiction.

Social Media as a Way of Being
The nature of teenagers’ social media usage goes beyond merely being a pastime. Instead, it has evolved into a way of being, an integral part of their identity. Social media platforms serve as a stage where teenagers portray their ideal selves. At the same time, it also serves their needs of feedback seeking and social comparison. Which also highly associate with their senses of self-efficacy and emotions.

Online Gaming Behaviors
Online gaming has become another popular digital pastime among teenagers. Much like social media, online gaming platforms provide a virtual space where teenagers can engage, interact, and compete with others.

Online Gaming as a Source of Entertainment and Socialization
Online gaming is not just about entertainment; it also serves as a platform for socialization. Many online games are multiplayer, requiring cooperation and coordination among players, thus promoting teamwork and communication.

Impact on Family Relationship

The digital generation gap between parents and teenagers can lead to conflicts over device usage. Many parents struggle to understand and navigate their teenagers’ digital lives, leading to potential relationship problems and emotional strains.

The Struggle for Balance

Social media and online gaming, like any other activities, come with their own set of risks and benefits.

Balancing the benefits of digital technology with the potential risks is a common struggle for many parents as well as their adolescents. On one hand, social media and online gaming can provide a platform for teenagers to connect with others, express themselves, and learn new things. Likewise, online gaming can also improve cognitive skills such as problem-solving, spatial awareness, and teamwork.

Nonetheless, excessive social media usage and online gaming can lead to various risks such as addiction, decreased academic performance, sleep deprivation, and reduced physical activities.

Social media addiction is characterized by excessive preoccupation with social media, and continued usage despite negative consequences. Similarly, gaming addiction is presented by a preoccupation with gaming, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge, withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away, and continued excessive gaming despite negative consequences. Online gaming addiction may also lead to negative impacts on academic performance, sleep patterns, and interpersonal relationships.

The online content of social media, short videos, and gaming is programmed to inflict the urge of continuous watching or using. Even adults may not be able to resist the desire for extra screen time. Thus, our teens need to learn how to utilize these platforms while manage their desire for excessive usage at the same time.

Impact on Emotional and Social Well-being of Teenagers

Adolescents are more susceptible to the addiction of social media and gaming due to their impulsive tendencies, needs to establish their identity among their group, and stronger urge for social influences. Like other addictions, excessive screen time can lead to various emotional problems such as increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. Social media, in particular, may lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem due to constant comparison with others.

Furthermore, neuropsychological research has revealed that the prefrontal lobe is the most affected region of brain in adolescents with digital addiction. Which underscored the negative impact digital addition can have on adolescents’ cognitive control, problem solving, and emotion regulation.

While social media and online gaming can provide opportunities for socialization, excessive screen time can also lead to decreased face-to-face social interactions and potential social isolation. As Sherry Turkle, the psychoanalyst in MIT mentions in her book “Along Together” that “The ties we form through the internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy.”

Guidance for Parents of Teenagers on Device Usage

As digital technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives, it is crucial for parents to provide guidance and set boundaries for their teenagers’ device usage. Parents can help prevent excessive usage, potential addiction, and other risks through the following strategies:

Setting Boundaries
Parents are encouraged to set clear and reasonable boundaries for device usage. This includes setting limits on screen time, ensuring that technology use does not interfere with important activities such as homework and family time, and setting rules about appropriate online behavior.

Encouraging Healthy Device Usage
Parents should encourage their teenagers to use digital technology in a healthy and balanced way. This includes encouraging regular breaks from screen time, promoting physical activity, and encouraging face-to-face social interactions.

Learning More About Their Digital Life
To foster an open conversation about their device usage, parents can learn more about what their teens are engaging in. You can navigate new areas of learning, fun discoveries, or even concerns together. Letting your teenagers know that they can come to you about any kind of their online experiences is the key.

Setting a Good example
Don’t forget the best way of educating your teenagers is by being their role models. Tell them what you are doing when you need to stick to your devices for a while around them. As they may lack effective skills of controlling their usage, you can share how you manage the distractions from your device by setting screen time limit or turning off notifications.


The digital age brings with it new challenges, particularly for today’s teenagers who are growing up immersed in a world of social media and online gaming. Which is why we have to nurture responsible digital users at this early stage.

While these platforms bring numerous benefits, they also come with potential risks, including addiction. It’s crucial for parents, educators, and mental health professionals to understand these risks and take proactive steps to promote healthy device usage among teenagers. With a balanced approach, we can harness the potential of digital technology while minimizing its pitfalls.

Megan Chang & AM Team

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Navigating the Teenage Years: Unraveling the Developmental Tasks, Challenges, and Opportunities

Navigating the Teenage Years: Unraveling the Developmental Tasks, Challenges, and Opportunities

Adolescence is a period of intensive change and growth. As teenagers navigate their way through this transformative stage, it is crucial for parents to have more understanding of the developmental tasks, challenges, and opportunities that come with it.

Neuroscience has shed light on adolescent development thus given us better insight into their experiences. One key aspect is the later development of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, impulse control, and reasoning. During adolescence, the brain undergoes a process called pruning, where unnecessary neural connections are eliminated, making room for more efficient wiring. The process starts from the back of the brain, and the pre-frontal cortex is remodeled the last. This pruning process contributes to the advancement of cognitive skills and the ability of critical thinking. The later maturation of this area makes adolescents rely more on their amygdala in problem solving or decision making than adults do. Which explains why adolescents tend to be more emotional and present more aggressive and instinctive behaviors.

Another significant factor is the role of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. The teenage brain is particularly sensitive to dopamine, leading to heightened sensations of pleasure and a greater inclination towards risk-taking behaviors. This increased sensitivity to dopamine explains why teenagers are more likely to engage in impulsive actions, seek out novel experiences, and more reactive to reward and feedback.

Developmental Tasks During the Teenage Years

Adolescence is the stage that teenagers strive to achieve a sense of identity, autonomy, and independence. One of the crucial developmental tasks during this period is the formation of a strong and coherent sense of self. Teenagers may explore different identities, experiment with various roles, and seek validation from others.

Another important developmental task is the establishment of healthy relationships. Teenagers are learning how to navigate the complexities of friendships, romantic relationships, and familial ties. They may face challenges such as peer pressure, conflicts, and the need for acceptance.

Lastly, adolescence is a time when teenagers are preparing for the future and gaining a sense of purpose. They are exploring their interests, talents, aspirations, and directions throughout this phase.

Challenges Faced by Teenagers

In this stage of growth and exploration, teenagers face a myriad of challenges such as academic pressure, peer influence, body image issues, relationship issues and the quest for independence. As parents, it is crucial to understand these challenges and provide the necessary guidance and support. Below I listed the most common challenges and how we can help:

Academic pressure: The pressure to excel academically can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout. It is important to strike a balance between academic expectations and their well-being. Encourage them to set realistic goals, recognize personal strengths, seek help when needed, and prioritize self-care.

Peer influence: Teenagers are highly influenced by their peers, often seeking validation and acceptance. This can lead to risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or engaging in dangerous activities. Open lines of communication, setting clear boundaries, and promoting positive peer relationships can help teenagers navigate this challenge.

Body image: Teenagers undergo physical changes and compare themselves to societal ideals. It is crucial to promote a healthy body image and self-esteem by emphasizing the importance of inner qualities, encouraging a balanced approach to nutrition and exercise, and fostering a supportive environment for their holistic health.

Opportunities for Growth and Learning During Adolescence

However, adolescence is also a time of great opportunities for immense growth and learning. For example, it is a time for adolescents to break through their comfort zone and adventure with their risk taking tendencies. And their egocentrism as well as sensitivity to rewarding feedback can also serve as the drive for their pursuance to achievement or more impactful roles in their community. It is important for parents to recognize and nurture these opportunities for the holistic development of teenagers with understanding and empathy.

One of the opportunities during adolescence is the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Teenagers are expanding their cognitive abilities, questioning the world around them, and forming their own opinions. Encouraging independent thinking, exposing them to diverse perspectives, and engaging in meaningful discussions can foster their intellectual growth.

Another opportunity lies in the realm of emotional intelligence. During adolescence, teenagers are learning to navigate their emotions, understand the emotions of others, and develop empathy. By promoting emotional awareness, introducing healthy coping mechanisms, and modeling emotion regulation strategies, parents can help teenagers develop strong emotional intelligence, which will serve them well in their personal and professional lives.

Strategies for Parents and Caregivers in Supporting Teenagers

As a parent and caregiver, our role in supporting teenagers through these challenges and opportunities of adolescence is crucial. Here are some ways to support:

  1. Foster open communication: Create a safe space for teenagers to express themselves, share their thoughts and feelings, and ask questions. Listen actively and non-judgmentally, providing guidance and support when needed. And take opportunities to model them essential relationship skills such as effective communication, empathy, and conflict resolution.
  2. Set clear boundaries: Establish rules and expectations that are fair and reasonable. Clearly communicate these boundaries and the consequences of violating them. Consistency is key.
  3. Encourage independence and responsibility: Allow teenagers to make decisions, take on responsibilities, and learn from their mistakes. Balancing autonomy with guidance will help them develop a sense of accountability and self-reliance.
  4. Provide opportunities for exploration and growth: Encourage teenagers to pursue their interests, try new activities, and explore their passions. Provide resources and support to help them achieve their goals while developing a sense of self-worth, purpose, and direction.
  5. Seek support from other adults: From family and friends to other parents, the connection with people sharing the same experiences can provide reassurance and new perspectives for your journey. You can also reach out to professional mental health workers who can walk you through the challenges and offer effective techniques. With your own support system in place, you will feel less alone and empowered.

The American Psychological Association (APA) provides a wealth of resources and support for parents, caregivers, and teenagers themselves too. Here are some additional strategies to support adolescents’ mental well-being from APA:

  1. Encourage self-expression: Provide outlets for teenagers to express themselves creatively, whether through art, writing, music, or other forms of self-expression. This can serve as a healthy emotional outlet and a means of self-discovery.
  2. Teach coping mechanisms: Help teenagers develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress, anxiety, and other challenges. This can include techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, journaling, or engaging in physical activity.
  3. Promote a balanced lifestyle: Encourage teenagers to maintain a balanced lifestyle by prioritizing self-care, engaging in enjoyable activities, and fostering healthy relationships. Balancing academic, social, and personal commitments is crucial for their well-being.

Navigating the teenage years can be both exciting and challenging. Embrace this transformative stage as a time of growth, self-discovery, and positive transition before adulthood with your adolescents. By understanding their journey, parents can be the pillars of strength for their teenagers.


Brain development in pre-teens and teenagers

Parenting: The teen years

Megan Chang & AM Team

Please refer to the AM articles page for Elise and the AM Team articles.

Please complete the AMindset intake form to start therapy with an AM team member. Our therapists offer a FREE 20-minute introductory session for new clients.

If you are not quite ready, please click here to subscribe to the AMindset Newsletter with articles and podcasts to learn more about your mental health and how AM can help you.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.