Thirty-three immigration offenders arrested

27 January 2017

The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including an operation codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with other law enforcement agencies to combat illegal employment activities at Lunar New Year Fairs from January 24 to 26. A total of 21 illegal workers and 12 suspected employers were arrested.

During operation "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided four target locations including flower stalls, a fruit stall and a grocery store. Five illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The five illegal workers comprise four men and a woman, aged 19 to 46, one of whom was the holder of a recognisance form, which prohibits him from taking any employment. Meanwhile three women, aged 37 to 60, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During the anti-illegal worker operations at Lunar New Year Fairs, enforcement officers raided target stalls at nine Lunar New Year Fairs, namely those at Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Kwai Chung, Sha Tin, Tai Po, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long districts. Sixteen illegal workers and nine employers were arrested. The illegal workers comprise eight men and eight women aged 24 to 60. Four men and five women, aged 25 to 63, were suspected of employing the illegal workers. Besides mounting enforcement operations, ImmD officers distributed leaflets to the stall keepers to remind them not to employ 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 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 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.