Four illegal workers jailed

4 Sep 2017

A Bangladeshi, a Pakistani and two Vietnamese illegal workers were jailed at Tuen Mun Magistrates' Courts on September 2.

During a joint operation conducted by the Immigration Department (ImmD), the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Powerplayer" on August 30, enforcement officers raided a recycling site in Pat Heung. A male Bangladeshi illegal worker and a male Pakistani illegal worker, both aged 30, were arrested. When intercepted, they were sorting electronic parts. Upon identity checking, they produced for inspection recognisance forms issued by the ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants. Meanwhile, an employer suspected of employing the illegal workers was also arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

Furthermore, during operation "Twilight" conducted on August 31, ImmD investigators raided a restaurant in Wan Chai. A male Vietnamese illegal worker and a female Vietnamese illegal worker, aged 41 and 39 respectively, were arrested. When intercepted they were working as odd-job workers in the kitchen. Upon identity checking, the woman produced for inspection a recognisance form issued by the ImmD, which prohibits her from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that she was a non-refoulement claimant, while the man was an illegal immigrant. In addition, they were suspected of using and being in possession of suspected forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, an employer suspected of employing the illegal workers was also arrested and the investigations are ongoing.

The four illegal workers were charged at Tuen Mun Magistrates' Courts on September 2 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, and they were each sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. The two Vietnamese illegal workers were also charged with using forged Hong Kong identity cards and were 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.

Under the existing mechanism, the ImmD will, as a standard procedure, conduct initial screening of vulnerable persons, including illegal workers, illegal immigrants, sex workers and foreign domestic helpers, who are arrested during any operations with a view to ascertaining whether they are trafficking in persons (TIP) victims. When any TIP indicator is revealed in the initial screening, the officers will conduct a full debriefing and identification by using a standardised checklist to ascertain the presence of TIP elements, such as threat and coercion in the recruitment phase, and the nature of exploitation. Identified TIP victims will be provided with various forms of support and assistance, including urgent interference, medical services, counselling, shelter, temporary accommodation and other supporting services. The ImmD calls on TIP victims to report crimes to the relevant departments.