Twenty immigration offenders arrested

7 December 2016

The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including an operation codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Champion", on December 5 and 6 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 13 illegal workers and seven suspected employers were arrested.

During the operation "Twilight", Immigration Task Force officers raided six target locations including a boutique, residential units and restaurants. Two illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The two illegal workers comprised two women, aged 49 and 50. Meanwhile, one man and two women, aged 43 to 72, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During the operation "Champion", enforcement officers raided seven target locations including massage shops and restaurants in Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui. Eleven illegal workers and four employers were arrested. The 11 illegal workers comprised six men and five women aged 26 to 51. Among them, two men were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. Two men and two women were suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, four women, aged 32 to 43, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

"Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of him shall be guilty of an offence. Also, visitors are not allowed to take employment in Hong Kong, whether paid or unpaid, without the permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to two years' imprisonment," an ImmD spokesman said.

The 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 or a Hong Kong identity card related to another person. 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.