Twelve immigration offenders arrested

22 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" on September 21 and 22 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of eight illegal workers and four suspected employers were arrested. The operation is ongoing.

During operations "Champion" conducted on September 21, enforcement officers raided 14 target locations including restaurants, a collection depot, warehouses, a logistics centre, a garage and a laundry factory in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung. Six illegal workers comprising three men and three women aged from 27 to 45 were arrested. The three men were holders of a recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. Two men and two women were suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, three men aged from 34 to 63 were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operation "Twilight" conducted on September 22, Immigration Task Force officers raided two target locations comprising a motor service centre and a restaurant. Two female illegal workers aged 39 and 51 were arrested. The two women were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. One woman was suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card. Meanwhile, one woman aged 42 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.