Tougher measures proposed for overstayers with jobs and employers of illegal workers as HK government seeks to deter economic migrants

05-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The Security Bureau wants tougher penalties for employers that hire illegal workers as it seeks to deter economic migrants from coming to Hong Kong.

On Thursday, authorities proposed that the maximum penalty for employing illegal workers be raised from three years in prison to 10 under a proposed amendment to the Immigration Ordinance. The maximum fine would also increase by almost 43 per cent, to HK$500,000.

Visitors overstaying and caught working, either paid or unpaid, would also face a harsher charge, of taking unlawful employment, which carries a three-year jail term.

Presently, overstayers caught working illegally can only be jailed for a maximum of two years for breaching their conditions of stay.

“To further reduce the economic incentives for potential non-refoulement claimants to come to Hong Kong, and to strengthen our efforts in combating the offence of employing persons who are not lawfully employable, we are considering amending the relevant provisions to increase the penalties,” the paper, submitted to the Legislative Council by the bureau, read.

It said the Immigration Department had continued to step up targeted inspections, intelligence gathering, and raids on venues such as factories, recycling centres and warehouses.

Although the measures were proposed to deter asylum seekers from working in the city, the amended law would also cover all who overstay their welcome, including those from mainland China.

Official figures show the department prosecuted 275 employers for hiring illegal workers in 2017, and 1,594 illegal workers.

The number of asylum seekers claiming refugee status in Hong Kong reached a peak in 2015, with immigration officials dealing with 480 new cases a month in the second half of the year. That compared with 102 cases monthly on average between 2010 and 2013. The backlog of cases in 2015 reached 10,922.

As a result, authorities pledged to streamline and speed up the screening process. As of September last year, there were 1,743 cases waiting to be screened. The department has so far substantiated 141 cases, or 0.7 per cent, of 19,377 applications.

The bureau also proposed that applicants must lodge claims within three months of the date they entered the city illegally or overstayed.

“Late claims will not be handled,” the paper stated.

The bureau told Legco in 2016 that 51 per cent of claimants were smuggled into Hong Kong, while 43 per cent were visitors who had overstayed.

Illegal immigrants had on average remained in the city for 11 months before lodging a claim, while that grew to 19 months for those who stayed beyond the date they were required to leave under their terms of entry.


Category: Hong Kong

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