Understanding Hong Kong’s Low Grant Rate for Non-Refoulment Protection under the Unified Screening Mechanism (USM)

In response to a 2013 Court of Final Appeal ruling, Hong Kong established a “Unified Screening Mechanism” (USM) to assess claims by refugees and other migrants seeking protection in Hong Kong. The mechanism considers non-refoulement claims based on (1) risk of persecution; (2) torture; or (3) cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. During the first two years, the acceptance rate was only .56 percent. By contrast, the global average is approximately 43 percent. These statistics, however, do not tell the full story since each territory receives a different population of individuals claiming protection. This paper provides preliminary reflections on possible reasons for Hong Kong’s particularly low rate through qualitative analysis of first-instance decisions, tracking and analyzing the reasons for denial. Through this analysis, the paper also hopes to push discussion and research forward on the broader topic of asylum and refugee acceptance success rates.