There are currently about 6000 open CAT cases filed with the Immigration Dept (ImmD). Following past court rulings, the CAT screening process needed to be revised in accordance with the new mechanism, i.e. provision of lawyers, interview and report to be conducted by the same officer, timing guidelines, submission requirement, etc. The screening interviews were only resumed in December 2009, as the ImmD needed to train more lawyers (not all lawyers were familiar with torture claim), set up of the Duty Lawyer CAT office and hire staff for the Torture Claim Assessment Section which was expanded from 8 to over 100 staff. Only approximately 600 cases have been completed in the past twelve months, however now the ImmD is moving very quick. Most of the CAT screenings are completed in 3-6 months, unless claimant intentionally delayed the case, which is held against them and will soon be considered an offense. The success rate is 0% and every case heard so far this year has been refused!
The procedures will be as follows:
- When you raise your torture claim, the case is passed to Shatin Torture Claim Assessment Section (TCAS) for processing. They will only entertain your request if you have overstayed in HK. If you still have a valid visa, they will not consider your application. Some lawyers have taken this point to the Court, but lost already.
- TCAS will pass the instructions to Duty Lawyer Service CAT Office. Staff of DLS-CAT office will call you for a meeting.
- DLS-CAT will ask you whether you want a lawyer to represent you. You can nominate your own lawyer or pick one from their list. You may call Mr. Kenneth Chan of DLS-CAT office for a list, (5/F., Siu Lek Yuen Operational Base, 25-27 Yuen Shun Circuit, Siu Lek Yuen, Shatin, Tel. 2646 8211, Fax. 2646 5615)
- DLS-CAT staff will help you fill in the 72 Questions (not 66Q anymore) and submit it to the TCAS within 28 days.
- Usually the 28 days deadline cannot be met, so your Duty Lawyer will ask for an extension.
- Once 72Q is returned, TCAS will give you a screening interview very quick, say within 1 – 2 months.
- Usually after 1-2 interviews the TCAS officer will write a report within 2 months. Sometimes very quick, within 1 month.
- Currently 100% of CAT cases have been rejected. Once rejected, the TCAS report will be passed to your Duty lawyer.
- Duty Lawyer will advising you to appeal with 14 days to the CAT Petition Bureau by way of Petition.
- If your Duty Lawyer thinks that you have grounds to appeal, he will advise the Duty Lawyer Office to continue your appeal case; if not you have to handle the appeal by yourself.
- The appeal will normally be rejected by the Petition Bureau within 1 or 2 months.
- ImmD will detain you when you report to Ma Tau Kok and send you to CIC Tuen Mun - pending deportation.
- You still have a last chance to appeal by way of Judicial Review to the High Court. You can either do it by yourself or apply for Legal Aid, which can take several months during which you will be held in CIC detention.
- Legal aid will be refused unless you have a very strong ground, in which case you will have to hire your own lawyer.
- ImmD will not normally agree to release you from CIC, even though you intend to apply for a judicial review.
- ImmD are now handling new cases first (those from 2010 and 2011). For old case they are proceeding with 2008 and 2009 already.
- Old cases will receive a letter from TCAS requesting you to go to Shatin TCAS, or to report to Ma Tau Kok office.
- In order to avoid the abuse of process (registering with UNHCR after CAT failure), the government is going to pronounce a bill that has passed its second reading in Legco.
- Note that once CAT claims are withdrawn or cancelled, they may not be re-opened again.