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1. What is the USM?

The Unified Screening Mechanism (USM) is the process the Hong Kong Government will use to screen all those claims lodged by persons not having the right to enter and remain in Hong Kong, on the basis that removing them to another country would expose them to risks of, including:

  • Torture as defined under Part VIIC of the Immigration Ordinance (Cap.115), which implements the definition under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
  • torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 3 of Section 8 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap.383); and/or
  • persecution with reference to the principle of non-refoulement under Article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
2. What is the difference between the USM and UNHCR?

The USM will be independently operated by the Government of HKSAR, not UNHCR, to assess non-refoulement claims. UNHCR ceased asylum screening on 3 March 2014 when the USM became operational.

3. When, where and how should I make claim under the USM?

The Government of HKSAR launched the USM on 3 March 2014.

Should you wish to seek non-refoulment protection you should make a formal written notification to this effect by post to the Torture Claim Assessment Section of the Hong Kong Immigration Department directly at Unit 903B-910A, 9/F, Skyline Tower, 39 Wang Kwong Road, Kowloon Bay, Kowloon.

4. If I am rejected by the USM, can I apply to the UNHCR again?

No. The ImmD’s decisions under the USM are subject to review through administrative, statutory, and judicial channels, but not through UNHCR.

5. What will happen if I don’t make a claim under the USM?

If you do not have the right to enter and remain in Hong Kong, you may be returned to your country.

6. Will UNHCR tell the USM that my case was rejected and closed previously?

UNHCR will share with the ImmD only basic bio-data, namely: name, date of birth, sex, country/nationality, date of registration, photo, case status (whether it is active or closed), and date of closure of case. UNHCR will not share any other information relating to your case with the ImmD except with your expressed consent.

7. I came to Hong Kong for UNHCR, not for the USM.

Status determination is a responsibility that should be primarily undertaken by governments. However, in certain countries UNHCR carries out refugee status determination pursuant to its mandate given in its statute to provide international protection. This is very important and resource intensive work. UNHCR’s determination process cannot parallel the procedures put in place by well-resourced countries with sophisticated legal systems. The Government of HKSAR is now legally required to screen non-refoulement claimants who claim a fear of persecution.

8. What will happen if the Government of HKSAR wants to deport me? Will UNHCR protect me?

If you do not have the right to enter and remain in Hong Kong, you will be required to lodge a non-refoulement claim with the ImmD under the USM if you seek non-refoulement protection against removal to another country.

9. How will the new procedures affect refugees already recognized by UNHCR?

UNHCR will continue to look for durable solutions, including resettlement to a third country, for all refugees recognized by the UNHCR.

10. When will the UNHCR Hong Kong office close?

There are no plans to close the UNHCR Hong Kong office in the foreseeable future.

11. After the USM is operational, what will UNHCR’s role be in Hong Kong?

UNHCR will maintain a constant dialogue with the Hong Kong authorities on developing standards of protection. UNHCR’s in-depth knowledge of and familiarity with international refugee law gives it the ability to engage in promotional activities while making its special expertise available by offering advisory services, technical assistance and training. UNHCR hopes to continue to work in close collaboration with the Hong Kong Government.

Recognized refugees and claimants whose non-refoulement claims have been substantiated on ground of persecution under the USM will be referred to the UNHCR in seeking durable solutions, including resettlement to a third country as appropriate.