Five illegal workers jailed

4 November 2016

Five Vietnamese illegal workers holding recognisance forms were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts yesterday (November 3).

During an anti-illegal worker operation mounted on November 1, Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators raided two restaurants in Hung Hom. Four Vietnamese women aged from 35 to 56 were arrested. When intercepted, they were found working and washing dishes in the kitchens. 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. In addition, investigators seized copies of forged Hong Kong identity cards of the three illegal workers. Three employers suspected of employing the four illegal workers were also arrested and the investigations are ongoing.

In addition, during a joint operation with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Sahara" mounted on August 10, enforcement officers found a female Vietnamese illegal worker, aged 44, washing dishes at a restaurant in Tai Kok Tsui. Upon identity checking, she 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. Two employers suspected of employing the illegal worker were arrested and the investigations are ongoing.

The five 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. Three of them were also charged with using of forged Hong Kong identity cards. They were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 15 months to 22 months and two weeks.

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.