May 15 (UPI) -- Three immigrant families who housed Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in 2013 had their asylum claims rejected, their lawyer said Monday.
The asylum seekers, from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, sheltered Snowden for two weeks in 2013 after he leaked thousands of classified intelligence files and fled the United States. They were introduced to Snowden by their lawyer, Robert Tribbo -- who also represents Snowden. Tribbo called the decision to reject their asylum claims "unreasonable."
"The Hong Kong government has intentionally targeted these three families for screening, immediate screening, and this has created a real hardship for these families. The process that they were afforded clearly was unfair," Tribbo said.
The group includes a Sri Lankan couple with two children, a Sri Lankan man and a Filipino mother and daughter. Each says that returning to their homeland is too dangerous, and that they fear persecution. Their identities became public in September, immediately prior to the release of "Snowden," a film directed by Oliver Stone.
"I cannot keep my heart ... I was tortured in my country. How can I go back? I know that from the moment I arrive at the airport [in Sri Lanka] my life will be at risk," said one of the immigrants, Ajith Pushpakumara, a former Sri iLankan soldier.
Hong Kong is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugees Convention. Although it has about 10,000 asylum seekers, 72 were recognized as refugees between 2009 and 2016, the BBC reported, citing the South China Morning Post.
The group that helped to hide Snowden also applied for asylum in Canada.
"We're talking about people who entered Hong Kong years apart from one another, who submitted asylum claims years apart from one another, and yet all these decisions are coming at the very same time," said Marc-Andre Seguin, a lawyer who handled the Canadian applications. "Clearly there is targeting here and our clients have reason for concern."