HK tightens entry norms for Indian visitors

14-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Indianexpress | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong has tightened the entry norms for Indian visitors and stipulated that they will be required to “successfully complete online pre-arrival registration” before visiting Hong Kong visa-free from January 23, 2017. The move by the Hong Kong government follows a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers from India.

Currently, Indian nationals are allowed to visit Hong Kong visa-free for a stay of up to 14 days.

“Effective from January 23, 2017, Indian nationals must apply for and successfully complete online pre-arrival registration before they can continue to enjoy the current 14-day visa-free visit or enter Hong Kong during transit (except in direct transit by air and not leaving the airport transit area), unless they belong to one of the categories of persons who may continue to come to Hong Kong visa-free without pre-arrival registration,” Hong Kong Immigration Department said in a notification.

Persons exempted from the requirement of pre-arrival registration include, among others, holders of an Indian diplomatic or official passport or a Hong Kong Travel Pass and Indian nationals who have successfully enrolled for the e-Channel service for frequent visitors, it said.

Earlier this year, a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers from India prompted the Hong Kong government to raise the issue with the Indian government and to consider measures to stop the entry of illegal immigrants.

According to figures available from the government in Hong Kong, most of the 10,450 pending asylum claimants originate from South or Southeast Asian countries, with Indians accounting for the most (20 per cent), followed by Vietnamese (about 20 per cent), Pakistanis (18 per cent), Bangladeshis (12 per cent), and Indonesians (10 per cent) – 80 per cent of all claimants came from one of these five countries.

Hong Kong immigration records indicate that 46 per cent of claimants smuggled into Hong Kong, 47 per cent entered as visitors but did not leave Hong Kong before their limit of stay expired (i.e. overstaying). The remaining 7 per cent are mostly persons who lodged a non-refoulement claim on the spot after being refused permission to land upon arrival.

While Indian businesspeople and some political parties opposed the pre-registration plan, some government-friendly parties in Hong Kong have been making a big issue over of it saying that the government is spending a fortune to look after the refugees.

“Genuine travellers from India are suffering because of the bogus asylum seekers. Earlier, the number of such asylum seekers was virtually nil. But it has shot up to over 2,000 in the last one and half years. The Indian government should not allow such people to travel,” said an industry source.

Some agencies in India are suspected to be arranging Indian nationals to come to Hong Kong under a fictitious “asylum visa”, providing a range of “services” including transporting them from India to Hong Kong, providing legal service to ensure that they enter successfully and lodge a non-refoulement claim for them afterward, and, while they are pending screening, arranging unlawful employment for them.”

Apart from serious abuses to our non-refoulement screening mechanism, such “services” exposed in the reports may also involve a number of serious criminal offences amounting to human trafficking, the Hong Kong government had said.

In one incident in September last year, five of six Indian nationals, who were denied entry into Hong Kong, filed non-refoulement claims with the assistance of the same lawyer. Interestingly, all of them arrived on the same flight, but said they did not know each other. Non-refoulment claim stops Hong Kong from sending people back to where they come from as they claim they will be tortured if they are sent back. The UN non-refoulement rules forbid the expulsion of a person into a jurisdiction, usually his or her home-country, where that person might be again subjected to persecution.

Currently Indians can visit visa-free for up to 14 days

Hong Kong Immigration Department said in a notification that effective from January 23, 2017, Indian nationals must apply for and successfully complete online pre-arrival registration before they can continue to enjoy the current 14-day visa-free visit or enter Hong Kong during transit.

The move follows a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers from India. Currently, Indian nationals are allowed to visit Hong Kong visa-free for a stay of up to 14 days.

Genuine travellers from India are suffering because of the bogus asylum seekers, an industry source said.

http://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/hong-kong-visa-indians-visiting-hong-kong-4424063/

 


Category: Hong Kong

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