Hong Kong rejects asylum claims of group that hid Snowden

Asylum seekers from left Ajith Pushpa Kumara Vanessa Mae Rodel and her daughter Keana Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and her son Dinath and daughter Sethmundi Kellapatha and Supun Thilina Kellapatha pose outside the building of Hong Kong's immigration depa

Robert Tibbo on Monday said immigration officials denied applications by the four adults and three children, in what he said is "retaliation for helping Snowden".

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.

Four years ago, they took Snowden into their cramped Hong Kong apartments when he was trying to evade authorities after carrying out one of the biggest intelligence thefts in USA history, releasing thousands of classified documents, including information on U.S. surveillance programs around the world. "For example, about how long had Mr. Snowden been staying with them, what was Mr. Snowden's movement in the territory, which is irrelevant to the (asylum) claims", the lawyer said.

Details of how Snowden managed to lay low in the Asian metropolis had remained obscure until previous year, when the asylum seekers' role came to light in Oliver Stone's movie Snowden, and the details were disclosed in Canada's National Post.

After just over a month in Hong Kong, Snowden boarded a flight to Russian Federation, where he has since been granted asylum. In October 2016, Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department officers were in Hong Kong trying to locate the asylum-seekers, showing their photographs to people there.

The family of Sri Lankan asylum seeker Ajith Pushpakumara, a former soldier from Sri Lanka who has been living in Hong Kong since 2003, housed the former United States intelligence contractor for about two weeks in 2013, shortly after he leaked classified documents that showed the extension of mass online surveillance by the American and other governments.

"If he asks again, he wants my help, I would say yes again", Rodel says. Rodel said she feared being detained and separated from her young, Hong Kong-born daughter.

"We now have less than two weeks to submit appeals before the families are deported". Refugees are screened and then referred to the United Nations, that can then resettle them in a safe third country.

The watchdog stressed that the lawyers were now seeking asylum for Snowden's support givers in Canada.

But with fewer than one percent of cases successfully substantiated by city authorities, most refugees live in fear of deportation.

A non-profit group is attempting to raise the estimated $15,000 to cover the appeals.

Marc-André Séguin, president of not-for-profit organization For The Refugees, told CNN that he has received confirmation that the families' asylum applications have been transferred to the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong.

The refugees faced "dire risk if sent back to their countries", said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at the rights group.

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