Immigration Department year-end briefing 2011

Post Date: Feb 10th, 2012 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

This extra on Torture Claim Assessment is taken from the Immigration Department website. To read more about operations, arrested illegal workers, CIC, bogus marriage and more please click here:

Pursuant to court rulings in the past few years, the Administration has enhanced the administrative screening mechanism for torture claims and an enhanced mechanism has been relaunched since December 24, 2009. In 2011 a total of 1432 new torture claim cases were received – down 20.8 per cent compared with 1 809 cases in 2010. The majority of the claimants came from South Asian countries. As at December 31, 2011, the Department had processed over 2 182 claims under the enhanced mechanism, of which 92 per cent were provided with publicly funded legal assistance. Of those, decisions were made on 1 146 claims. At present, the number of outstanding claims is 6447.

During the year, some legally aided torture claimants launched various legal challenges against enforcement actions and policies of the Administration. There were judicial review applications challenging, inter alia, the Administration’s policy of not granting extension of stay to torture claimants and not allowing the screened-in torture claimants to work in Hong Kong. The ruling of the court upholds the Government’s policy of not granting extension of stay to torture claimants and not allowing screened-in torture claimants and mandated refugees to take up employment generally. Furthermore, the new Section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, which came into effect on November 14, 2009, provides that it is an offence for any illegal immigrants or any persons under a removal order or a deportation order to take any paid or unpaid employment, or to establish or join in any business. As at December 31, 2011, 2311 torture claims had been withdrawn and the subjects had voluntarily requested repatriation to their places of origin.

In addition, the Administration introduced the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2011 to the Legislative Council on July 8, 2011, to underpin the enhanced screening mechanism in the proposed legislation in order to maintain high standards of fairness and to help reduce procedural abuse (e.g. claimants deploying delaying tactics by spreading out submission of evidence over a long period of time, repeated absence from interviews, reopening of claims after withdrawal, making subsequent new claims before removal, making false representations, etc), thus reducing the chances of legal challenges and abuse in the mechanism.

VF tirelessly serves refugees day and night
VF tirelessly serves refugees day and night

Enforcement actions against illegal employment

In 2011, 11 463 operations against illegal employment were conducted, with 5 621 suspected illegal workers and 910 employers being arrested. After the commencement of the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2009 on November 14, 2009, the Department continued to strengthen law enforcement action in combating illegal employment to act as a deterrent for those who may intend to seek illegal entry into Hong Kong to seek illegal employment. Between November 14, 2009 and December 31, 2011, 364 illegal workers were arrested for breaching the amended ordinance. The Department put in a concerted effort to combat offences involving false contracts for applying for foreign domestic helper visas. In August 2011, the Department successfully cracked down on a syndicate using false residential and financial documents to apply for employment visas for foreign domestic helpers. In the operation, over 100 suspected forged documents were seized and two main culprits of the syndicate were arrested. They were charged with relevant offences and are now awaiting court trial. In addition, a number of foreign domestic helpers who had obtained an employment visa by fraudulent means were arrested. Among the four convicted foreign domestic helpers, one was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and the sentencing of the other three was adjourned to early February 2012.

Deterrence of global illegal migration activities

The Department has for years worked together with international and local law enforcement agencies to combat global illegal migration and document fraud. The Anti-Illegal Migration Agency was set up to investigate cases involving HKSAR passports. The latest intelligence reveals that syndicates continue to smuggle illegal migrants into overseas countries by circuitous routes. In the past, illegal migrants travelled to their countries of choice as directly as possible. Currently, to circumvent the strict immigration control in Hong Kong, smuggling-ring members arrange for illegal migrants to take detours to a number of transit ports, so that they may seek illegal entry into their destination country through these transit ports using forged passports procured overseas. The Department has adopted a proactive approach against such transnational crime by conducting joint operations with international and local law enforcement agencies. In January 2011, a joint operation was conducted by the Department and the Hong Kong Police Force to combat document fraud and boarding pass swap activities. In May 2011, another joint operation was conducted by the Department and the Hong Kong Police Force to apprehend passport brokers and passport sellers. Furthermore, in September 2011, the Department conducted a special operation at Hong Kong International Airport, with the participation of local consulate representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and with Macao police officers as advisers or observers. These three operations were successful, leading to the apprehension of 19 immigration offenders, including a forgery user, a passport broker, boarding pass swappers, HKSAR passport sellers and former airline ground staff.

Takeover of management and operation of Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC)
The CIC is an immigration detention facility for immigration offenders (18 years old or above) awaiting repatriation, removal or deportation in accordance with the Immigration Ordinance. The CIC commenced operations in 2005. Owing to the manpower situation at that time, the Department and the Correctional Services Department (CSD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under which the CSD would manage the CIC for a period of five years. Pursuant to the MOU, the management and operation of the CIC was taken over by the Department from the CSD on April 15, 2010. The operation of the CIC has been running smoothly since the takeover. As at December 31, 2011, there were 332 detainees held in the CIC.