The Economy of Seeking Asylum in the Global City



This article explores asylum seeker survival strategies and agency in relation to the structural, post-industrial conditions that have emerged in Hong Kong. The focus is on the livelihoods of asylum seekers within spaces of illegality and social exclusion, how such spaces are formed, and how asylum seekers exploit local conditions to establish profitable networks across borders. The article considers asylum seekers' engagement in income-generating activities and the importance of legal status in the sectors of the economy in which they most often work: recycling and trading. Far from being a burden to society or opportunistic deviants taking advantage of Hong Kong's economic prosperity, as they are normally depicted in public discourse, asylum seekers are economically productive. They act in economic spaces in which disadvantaged strata of the local resident population organize their means of survival, thereby improving the economic opportunities for locals.