Six illegal workers jailed

19 Jun 2017

Four illegal Vietnamese workers and two illegal Indonesian workers were jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on June 16.

During an anti-illegal worker operation mounted on June 14, Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators raided a Chinese bun restaurant in Sai Ying Pun. Two female and one male Vietnamese illegal workers, aged from 34 to 62, were arrested. When intercepted they were found rinsing vegetables, frying buns and washing dishes respectively. Further investigation revealed that they were illegal immigrants. In addition, they were suspected of using and being in possession of suspected forged Hong Kong identity cards.

Furthermore, in an anti-illegal employment operation jointly mounted by the ImmD and the Labour Department on June 14, enforcement officers raided a restaurant in Tsueng Kwan O and arrested a Vietnamese female, aged 32. When intercepted, she was found preparing food and washing dishes. Further investigation revealed that she was an illegal immigrant. She was also suspected of using and being in possession of suspected forged Hong Kong identity card. An employer suspected of employing the illegal worker was also arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

Moreover, during a joint operation conducted by the ImmD and the Hong Kong Police Force codenamed "Powerplayer" on February 28, enforcement officers raided a car washing shop in Pat Heung. Two male Indonesian illegal workers, aged 28 and 33, were arrested. When intercepted, they were found washing cars. 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.

The six illegal workers were charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on June 16 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. The four Vietnamese illegal workers pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. They were also charged with using forged Hong Kong identity cards or false instruments and were sentenced to imprisonment for 15 months. All sentences are to run concurrently. The Indonesian illegal workers were convicted after trial and were sentenced to 22 months and four weeks' imprisonment, and 22 months two weeks and two days' imprisonment respectively.

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.