Emmanuel Serna - No Life

Emmanuel Serna Ramesh, a 35 year old Sri Lankan, in Hong Kong for 8 years, is on the phone at the window of his shack that he built by himself in a slum in Lam Tei. About forty people live in this slum. Hong Kong, July 2015.
Emmanuel Serna Paula, a 37 year old refugee from Pakistan, in Hong Kong for 7 years, sitting on his bed in his tiny room without windows nor air conditioning in a slum in Lam Tei. Hong Kong, July 2015.
Emmanuel Serna Neisha, a 25 year old Indian, in Hong Kong for 5 years, is sleeping in his teeny tiny room. His slum in Chung Uk Tsuen, home to 10 refugees will be destroyed to make way for the future MTR Hung Shui Kiu station. Hong Kong, July 2015.
Emmanuel Serna Suneisha, a 30 year old Indonesian carries her neighbor's daughter in a slum in Lam Tei. The subsistence assistance provided by the social services is particulary insufficient for families with children. Hong Kong, July 2015.
Emmanuel Serna Two Indian refugees are watching television in the room they share in a slum in Nai Wai. This slum is a former pig farm transformed into housing. Hong Kong, August 2015.
Emmanuel Serna Three young refugees from India are preparing dinner in a slum in Nai Wai. A real solidarity exists between the refugees. Hong Kong, August 2015.
Emmanuel Serna A Vietnamese refugee is washing his dishes in a slum in Nai Wai. Despite the deplorable conditions in which they live, the refugees take care of themselves. Hong Kong, July 2015.
Emmanuel Serna Hosen, a 27 year old refugee from Bangladesh, in Hong Kong for 6 years, is fixing the roof of his shack in a slum in Chung Uk Tsuen. Hong Kong, July 2015.


Emmanuel Serna was born in Lunel, France in 1973. After graduating from a photography school in Paris, he spent time photographing in the Balkans mainly in Bosnia, Kosovo after the war and in Serbia, where he made a long-term project about the Serbian youth. Since then he has focused his work in China. Apart from his personal exhibitions, his photos have been exhibited in photo festivals in France. Some of his reports were published in the press and online media. He likes photographing individuals, their relationships with each other and with their environment. Since 2010, he has been living and working in Hong Kong as a freelance photographer.

Project Statement

The plight of refugees in Hong Kong, is the consequence of a system that isolates and leaves them with an endless wait, out of sight from the rest of the population in unsanitary slums.

About 10,000 refugees live in Hong Kong, mostly originating from the Indian subcontinent, but also from Vietnam, Indonesia or the Horn of Africa. Most of them fled persecution in their country, hoping to find refuge in Hong Kong.

But the city isn’t the haven they were hoping for. Hong Kong has signed the Convention against Torture and cannot repatriate people at risk of torture back to their home countries. Yet, only a very small number of them obtain refugee status.

Upon their arrival in Hong Kong, refugees are registered as asylum seekers or as victims of torture and their passports are confiscated. Normally, it takes three years to process their applications, but some are still waiting after eight years and are not allowed to work.

Refugees have access only to tiny rooms in slums in the New Territories. Initially these slums were not made for housing, these were shacks, pig or chicken farms built or refurbished by unscrupulous owners.