Six illegal workers jailed

16 April 2018

Six illegal workers, comprising two Indonesians, two Vietnamese and two Pakistanis, were jailed by Shatin and Tuen Mun Magistrates' Courts on April 13 and 14 respectively.

During an anti-illegal worker operation conducted on April 10, Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators raided a restaurant in Jordan. Two female Indonesian illegal workers, aged 32 and 34, were arrested. When intercepted, they were found to be washing dishes. 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, one of them was also suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card. An employer suspected of employing the illegal workers was arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

During an anti-illegal worker operation mounted on April 11, ImmD investigators raided two restaurants in Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui. Two female Vietnamese illegal workers, aged 28 and 44, were arrested. When intercepted, they were found working as odd-job workers. Upon identity checking, they were found to be illegal immigrants. In addition, one of the illegal workers was suspected of using and being in possession of suspected forged Hong Kong identity cards. Two employers suspected of employing the illegal workers were also arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

Furthermore, during operation "Twilight" conducted on April 12, Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators raided an industrial building in Kwai Chung. Two male Pakistani illegal workers, aged 26 and 29, were arrested. When intercepted, they were found to be loading goods. 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, they were also suspected of using and being in possession of identity cards relating to other persons.

The six illegal workers were charged at Shatin and Tuen Mun Magistrates' Courts, on April 13 and 14 respectively, 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 and they were sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment. In addition, four of them were also charged with using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card or identity cards relating to other persons, and they were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 12 months to 15 months. All sentences are to run concurrently, making a total of 15 months' imprisonment.

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 or an identity card relating to other 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. 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 on 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.