Six Pakistani illegal workers jailed

17 October 2016

Six Pakistani illegal workers holding recognisance forms were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on October 14 and 15.
 
Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators received a referral from the Hong Kong Police Force to further investigate an illegal employment case. Enforcement officers arrested two male Pakistani illegal workers, aged 29 and 30 in Yuen Long. When intercepted, they were found conveying goods. Upon identity checking, they produced for inspection recognisance forms issued by the ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment, and further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants. An employer suspected of employing the illegal workers was arrested. The investigation is ongoing.
 
During a joint operation with the Hong Kong Police Force codenamed "Champion" mounted on September 13, enforcement officers raided a warehouse in Kwai Chung. Two male Pakistani illegal workers, both aged 37, were arrested. When intercepted, they were found conveying goods in the warehouse. Upon identity checking, they produced for inspection recognisance forms issued by the ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants. An employer suspected of employing the illegal workers was arrested. The investigation is ongoing.
 
In addition, during operations "Twilight" mounted on September 13 and October 12, ImmD investigators raided a restaurant in North Point and a laundry factory in Kwai Chung. Two Pakistani illegal workers, one male and one female, aged 24 and 28, were arrested. When intercepted, the former was found working as an odd-job worker at the restaurant and the latter was folding tablecloths at the laundry. Upon identity checking, they produced for inspection recognisance forms issued by the ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants. The male arrestee was also suspected of using and being in possession of a suspected forged Hong Kong identity card. An employer suspected of employing the illegal worker was arrested. The investigation is ongoing.
 
The six illegal workers were charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on October 14 and 15 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', and 22 months and two weeks' imprisonment respectively. One of the male arrestees was also charged with using and possessing a forged Hong Kong identity card and was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for each charge. 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.