Two illegal workers jailed

27 February 2017

Two illegal workers, comprising an Indonesian and a Vietnamese holding recognisance forms, were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on February 24.

During a joint operation with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Powerplayer" mounted on February 6, enforcement officers raided a restaurant in North Point. A female Indonesian illegal worker, aged 30, was arrested. When intercepted, she was found working as an odd job worker. Upon identity checking, she produced for inspection a recognisance form issued by the Immigration Department (ImmD), which prohibits her from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that she was a non-refoulement claimant. An employer suspected of employing the illegal worker was also arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

Furthermore, during an anti-illegal worker operation mounted on February 22, ImmD investigators raided a restaurant in Kwai Chung. One male Vietnamese illegal worker, aged 26, was arrested. When intercepted, he was found washing dishes. Upon identity checking, he produced for inspection a recognisance form issued by the ImmD, which prohibits him from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that he was a non-refoulement claimant. He 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 also arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

The illegal workers were charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on February 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 pleaded guilty to the charges and were each sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. The male arrestee was also charged with using a forged Hong Kong identity card and was sentenced to 15 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.