Five illegal workers jailed

20 February 2017

Five illegal workers comprising one Pakistani, two Indians and two Vietnamese were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on February 17 and 18.

Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators received referrals from the Hong Kong Police Force to further investigate two illegal employment cases. Enforcement officers arrested one Pakistani male, aged 30, conveying vegetables in Fanling and two Indian males, aged 22 and 40, conveying furniture in Kwai Chung. Upon identity checking, the three men were found to be holders of recognisance forms issued by the ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants. Two employers suspected of employing the three illegal workers were arrested and the investigations are ongoing.

Furthermore, during operation "Twilight" conducted on February 16, ImmD investigators raided a residential estate in Wan Chai and arrested a Vietnamese male aged 34. When intercepted, he was found working as a cleaning worker. Further investigation revealed that he was an illegal immigrant. Two employers suspected of employing the illegal worker were also arrested and the investigations are ongoing.

During another anti-illegal worker operation mounted on the same day, ImmD investigators arrested one Vietnamese male, aged 24, who was found working as an odd job worker in a food processing factory in Kwai Chung. Upon identity checking, he produced a recognisance form issued by the ImmD, which prohibits him from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that he was a non-refoulement claimant. Investigators also seized a copy of a forged Hong Kong identity card related to the illegal worker. One employer suspected of employing the illegal worker was also arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

The five illegal workers were charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on February 17 and 18 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 imprisonment for 15 months to 22 months and two weeks. One man was also charged with using a forged Hong Kong identity card. He was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. The two charges 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.