Twenty-two immigration offenders arrested

8 February 2017

The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including operations codenamed "Twilight" and a joint operation with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Powerplayer", on February 6 and 7 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 18 illegal workers and four suspected employers were arrested.

During operation "Twilight" conducted on February 6 and 7, ImmD Task Force officers raided 24 target locations including restaurants, nursing homes, commercial buildings, construction sites, residential flats, retail shops and a village house under renovation. Nine illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The nine illegal workers comprised seven men and two women, aged 22 to 46. Among them, seven men and a woman were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. A man and a woman were also suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Two men and a woman, aged 28 to 60, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operation "Powerplayer" conducted on February 6, enforcement officers raided 31 target locations including restaurants, commercial buildings, retail shops, massage parlours, a bakery and a residential flat in Wan Chai, Eastern, Central and Western districts. Nine illegal workers and an employer were arrested. The nine illegal workers comprised two men and seven women, aged 30 to 61. Among them, a woman was the holder of recognisance form, which prohibits her from taking any employment. A woman was also suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card. A man, aged 45, was 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.