The Department of Foreign Affairs has reached out to a Filipina who sheltered former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 and is now facing deportation in Hong Kong.
Foreign Affairs Spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said all concerned offices of the department were mobilized to reach out to Vanessa Mae Rodel, 46, whose life remains in limbo following her unexpected meeting with Snowden.
In 2010, Rodel sought asylum in Hong Kong allegedly because she was a victim of rape and abduction.
Rodel and other Sri Lankan refugees who fed and gave shelter to Snowden are now seeking asylum in Canada. They are being represented by Robert Tibbo, who also provided legal advice to Snowden when he was hiding in Hong Kong.
Snowden, 33, is wanted by American authorities for leaking classified information on global surveillance programs. Snowden is in an undisclosed safe house in Moscow.
Rodel and the other refugees are facing deportation after the city’s authorities rejected their bid for protection.
“The decisions are completely unreasonable,” Tibbo told reporters, saying the procedures had been “manifestly unfair” towards his clients.
Tibbo said their cases had been rejected because their home countries were deemed safe.
The refugees have said previously they were specifically asked about their links to Snowden by Hong Kong authorities.
“We now have less than two weeks to submit appeals before the families are deported,” said Tibbo alongside the refugees, who were visibly distressed.
He said there was a risk his clients could be detained and their children placed in government custody.
After leaving his initial Hong Kong hotel for fear of being discovered, Snowden went underground, fed and looked after by the refugees for around two weeks.
Their stories only emerged late last year.
The group includes a Sri Lankan couple with two young children and Rodel and her five-year-old daughter.
Hong Kong is not a signatory to the UN’s refugee convention and does not grant asylum.
However, it is bound by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and considers claims for protection based on those grounds.
Hong Kong’s 11,000 marginalized refugees spend years in limbo, hoping the government will eventually support their claims.
Lawyers for the Snowden refugees separately lodged an asylum petition with the Canadian government in March and called for that process to be expedited Monday.
Human Rights Watch also urged the Canadian government to “intervene swiftly and protect them” following the rejection of their petitions in Hong Kong. Jaime R. Pilapil, AFP