12 January 2018
The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide anti-illegal workers operations including an operation codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Champion" from January 8 to 11. A total of 17 illegal workers and four suspected employers were arrested.
During operations "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided 14 target locations including garbage collecting depots, a vegetable stall, warehouses, a fitness centre, restaurants, a farm, a street stall, a residential building and food processing centres. Thirteen illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The illegal workers comprised six men and seven women aged from 24 to 54. Meanwhile, two men and one woman, aged 39 to 54, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.
During operations "Champion", enforcement officers raided 27 target locations in Kowloon East, North Point and Chai Wan including shops, a shop under renovation, restaurants and a massage parlour. Four illegal workers and one employer were arrested. The illegal workers comprised two men and two women aged 22 to 50. Meanwhile, a man, aged 44, 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 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. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution and penalties," an ImmD spokesman said.
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 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.
Under the existing mechanism, the ImmD will, as a standard procedure, conduct initial screening of vulnerable persons, including illegal workers, illegal immigrants, sex workers and foreign domestic helpers, who are arrested during any operation with a view to ascertaining whether they are trafficking in persons (TIP) victims. When any TIP indicator is revealed in the initial screening, the officers will conduct a full debriefing and identification by using a standardised checklist to ascertain the presence of TIP elements, such as threat and coercion in the recruitment phase and the nature of exploitation. Identified TIP victims will be provided with various forms of support and assistance, including urgent interference, medical services, counselling, shelter, temporary accommodation and other supporting services. The ImmD calls on TIP victims to report crimes to the relevant departments.