Five non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers jailed

19 September 2016

Five non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on September 15 and 17.

During an anti-illegal worker operation mounted on September 13, Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators raided a laundry factory in Kwai Chung. Three Pakistani males aged 24 to 39 were arrested. When intercepted, they were handling clothing in the laundry factory. Upon identity checking, one male produced for inspection a recognisance form issued by the ImmD, which prohibits him from taking employment, and further investigation revealed that he was a non-refoulement claimant. The other two males were illegal immigrants.

During another anti-illegal worker operation mounted on the same day, ImmD investigators raided two restaurants in Wan Chai and Tai Kok Tsui. Two Vietnamese female illegal workers aged 30 and 50 were arrested. When intercepted, they were steaming bread and cleaning dishes in the restaurants. Upon identity checking, one female produced for inspection a recognisance form issued by the ImmD, which prohibits her from taking employment, and further investigation revealed that she was a non-refoulement claimant. In addition, a forged Hong Kong identity card was found in her personal belongings. The other female was an illegal immigrant. Two employers suspected of employing the illegal workers were arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

The five illegal workers were charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on September 15 and 17 with taking employment after landing in Hong Kong unlawfully and remaining in Hong Kong without the authority of the Director of Immigration or while being a person in respect of whom a removal order or deportation order was in force. They pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. The Vietnamese non-refoulement claimant also pleaded guilty to the use and possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card and was sentenced to 15 months' and 12 months’ imprisonment. All sentences are to run concurrently.

The ImmD spokesman warned that, as stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, illegal immigrants or people who are the subject of a removal order or a deportation order are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years' imprisonment. The Court of Appeal has issued a guideline ruling that a sentence of 15 months' imprisonment should be applied in such cases.

The spokesman also warned that it is an offence to use or possess a forged Hong Kong identity card. Offenders are liable to prosecution and a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years' imprisonment.

The spokesman reiterated that it is a serious offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for three years and a fine of $350,000. The High Court has laid down sentencing guidelines that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence. According to the court sentencing, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee's identity card, the employer has the explicit duty to make enquiries regarding the person and ensure that the answers would not cast any reasonable doubt concerning the lawful employability of the person. The court will not accept failure to do so as a defence in proceedings. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's valid travel document if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. The maximum penalty for failing to inspect such a document is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.