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13 persons arrested during crackdown on illegal workers

13 persons arrested during anti-illegal worker operations

HONG KONG — In a concerted effort to combat illegal employment and ensure immigration compliance, the Immigration Department (ImmD) of Hong Kong carried out a series of operations over four consecutive days, from January 15 to January 18. Codenamed “Twilight,” these territory-wide anti-illegal worker operations were conducted in collaboration with the Hong Kong Police Force, under the codenames “Champion” and “Windsand.” As a result of these operations, a total of 13 suspected illegal workers were apprehended.

During the anti-illegal worker operations, officers from the ImmD Task Force meticulously raided 24 target locations across Hong Kong. These locations included premises under renovation, restaurants, and retail shops. Seven individuals suspected of illegal employment were arrested during these raids. Among them were five men and two women, ranging in age from 22 to 57. Notably, one woman was found in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card, raising concerns about document fraud.

Operation “Champion” focused on the Central and Western districts of Hong Kong. Enforcement officers raided 83 target locations, resulting in the arrest of six suspected illegal workers. The arrested individuals included one man and five women, aged between 30 and 50. Of particular significance, one man was found to be in possession of a recognisance form, which explicitly forbids him from engaging in any form of employment.

The ImmD underscored the legal consequences that individuals face when contravening conditions of stay or engaging in unauthorized employment. According to an ImmD spokesperson, those who violate these regulations may be prosecuted and, upon conviction, may face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to two years of imprisonment. The spokesperson further emphasized that individuals who aid or abet such offenses are also liable for prosecution and penalties.

Highlighting the severity of the issue, the spokesperson drew attention to Section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, which strictly prohibits illegal immigrants, individuals subject to removal or deportation orders, overstayers, and those refused permission to land from taking any form of paid or unpaid employment or establishing/joining in any business activities. Convicted offenders face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment. Additionally, the possession or use of forged Hong Kong identity cards can lead to a maximum fine of $100,000 and up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The ImmD reiterated the gravity of employing individuals who are not lawfully employable, emphasizing that employers can face severe penalties. Under the revised provisions of the Immigration Ordinance, employers who hire illegal immigrants, individuals subject to removal or deportation orders, overstayers, or those refused permission to land can be fined up to $500,000 and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. The courts have established sentencing guidelines that advocate for immediate custodial sentences for employers found guilty of hiring illegal workers.

To avoid legal complications, employers are urged to take reasonable measures to ascertain a prospective employee’s lawful employability. This includes inspecting their identity cards and making appropriate inquiries to ensure compliance. Failure to do so can no longer be considered a valid defense. Employers are also required to inspect valid travel documents of job seekers who do not possess a Hong Kong permanent identity card. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in a maximum fine of $150,000 and one year of imprisonment.

The ImmD maintains a protocol to screen vulnerable individuals, including illegal workers, illegal immigrants, sex workers, and foreign domestic helpers, who are arrested during operations. This screening aims to identify potential victims of trafficking in persons (TIP). Those identified as TIP victims are provided with support and assistance, which may include medical services, counseling, shelter, and other necessary services.

The ImmD encourages victims of trafficking to promptly report crimes to the relevant authorities, ensuring they receive the necessary help and support. The department remains committed to resolute enforcement measures to combat offenses related to illegal employment, safeguarding the integrity of immigration regulations in Hong Kong.