Twelve immigration offenders arrested

20 September 2016

The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including an operation codenamed "Twilight", and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Champion" yesterday (September 19) to combat illegal employment activities. A total of eight illegal workers and four suspected employers were arrested.

During operation "Twilight", Immigration Task Force officers raided 14 target locations including offices, garbage collection depots, restaurants, an elderly care centre, a shop and a restaurant under renovation. Six illegal workers comprising five men and one woman aged from 23 to 51 were arrested. Among them, four men were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. In addition, the other one man and one woman were arrested in suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, two men and one woman aged from 41 to 53 were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operations "Champion", enforcement officers raided seven target locations including restaurants, a massage centre, a shop and a shop under renovation in North Point and Chai Wan. Two illegal workers comprising one man and one woman aged 31 and 45 respectively were arrested. The 31-year-old man was a holder of a recognisance form, which prohibits him from taking any employment. Meanwhile, one woman aged 50 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 up 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. Otherwise, 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.