Eight non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers jailed

26 September 2016

Eight non-ethnic Chinese illegal workers were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on September 23 and 24.

Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators received a referral from the Hong Kong Police Force in August to further investigate an illegal employment case. Enforcement officers arrested two Pakistani male workers and one Bangladeshi male worker aged between 20 and 32 performing renovation works inside a car park in Ta Kwu Ling. Upon identity checking, they were found to be the holders of recognisance forms issued by ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment, and further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants.

Furthermore, during the anti-illegal worker operations mounted on August 24 and 25 and September 22, ImmD investigators raided restaurants in Wan Chai, Shau Kei Wan and Ho Man Tin, and a vehicle maintenance centre in Kowloon Bay. Four Vietnamese female illegal workers aged between 25 and 51 were arrested. When intercepted, they were working as odd job workers in the restaurants or a cleaning worker at the vehicle maintenance centre. Upon identity checking, three of them were found to be holders of recognisance forms issued by ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment, and further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants while another one was found to be an illegal immigrant. Two of the four arrestees were also suspected of using and being in possession of suspected forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, three employers suspected of employing the illegal workers were also arrested and the investigations are ongoing.

In addition, during a joint operation with the Hong Kong Police Force codenamed "Champion" mounted on September 21, enforcement officers raided an industrial building in Kwai Chung. One Pakistani male aged 27 was arrested. When intercepted, he was unloading goods in a car park in the industrial building. Upon identity checking, he produced for inspection a recognisance form issued by ImmD, which prohibits him from taking up employment, and further investigation revealed that he was a non-refoulement claimant.

The eight illegal workers were charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on September 23 and 24 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 were sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. One of the Vietnamese females was also charged with using a forged identity card and was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. Another Vietnamese female was also charged with illegally remaining in Hong Kong and breach of deportation order and was sentenced to 20 months' and 22 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.