Illegal worker jailed

30 March 2017

Four illegal workers comprising two Indians, one Pakistani and one Bangladeshi holding recognisance forms were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts yesterday (March 29).

Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators received a referral from the Hong Kong Police Force to further investigate an illegal employment case in February. Enforcement officers arrested two male Indians, aged 26 and 32, conveying sand bags in Yuen Long. 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 also arrested. The investigation is ongoing.

Furthermore, during operation "Twilight" conducted on March 27, ImmD investigators raided a refuse chamber of a residential building in Mong Kok. A male Pakistani, aged 28, was arrested. When intercepted, he was found moving refuse bins into the refuse chamber. 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. Two employers suspected of employing the illegal worker were also arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

In the same operation "Twilight" mounted on March 27, ImmD investigators raided a stall in Yau Ma Tei. A male Bangladeshi, aged 27, was arrested. When intercepted, he was found setting up a booth. 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.

The four illegal workers were charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts yesterday 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 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 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.