The Hong Kong Immigration Department on Monday rejected an asylum request of migrants who sheltered US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.
The department rejected the requests of the seven applicants on Friday, but the news only became public on Monday after their lawyers spoke to the media, Efe news reported.
"The director of immigration does not believe in our clients," Robert Tibbo, one of the lawyers of the refugees, said after the decision.
Tibbo added that Hong Kong authorities believe his clients have not presented sufficient evidence, despite Snowden saying publicly that they had given him shelter.
The migrants are accused of secretly sheltering the former CIA agent in their homes in 2013 when the whistleblower was fleeing authorities in the US after leaking a list of classified documents that revealed massive surveillance programmes carried out mainly by Washington.
According to the lawyer, the government's decision is due to the fact that his clients, four adults and three children, are involved in a case of international spying.
"The decisions to reject their claims in Hong Kong came on the same day for people who submitted asylum claims years apart from one another," he said.
The defence lawyers have 15 days from last Friday, the day on which they were officially notified of the government's refusal, to file an appeal through the immigration department, which could order the deportation and detention of the asylum seekers in the coming days.
The case affects a Filipino woman, Vanessa Mae Rodel, and her four-year-old daughter, Ajith Pushpakumara, as well a Sri Lankan soldier, Supun Thilina Kellapatha, his wife, Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis, and their two children.
According to Tibbo, the department reactivated the adults' asylum claims after their identities were revealed in media reports last year.
The asylum seekers have complained publicly several times of having been persecuted in Hong Kong by Sri Lankan authorities, although the Hong Kong government has never acknowledged this claim.
They have also sought asylum in Canada, whose government began processing the request three weeks ago.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)