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Hong Kong Immigration Department Cracks Down on Illegal Workers, 20 Arrested in Four-Day Operation

20 persons arrested during anti-illegal worker operations (2)

The Immigration Department (ImmD) of Hong Kong launched a series of extensive anti-illegal worker operations, codenamed “Contribute,” “Greenlane,” “Lightshadow,” and “Twilight,” from June 3 to June 6. These operations, conducted in collaboration with the Hong Kong Police Force under the codename “Windsand,” resulted in the arrest of 18 suspected illegal workers and two suspected employers.

During the coordinated raids, ImmD Task Force officers targeted 69 locations across the city, including commercial buildings, a football court, premises under renovation, residential buildings, and restaurants. The 18 suspected illegal workers apprehended comprised 11 men and seven women, aged between 29 and 51. Among them, three men and two women held recognisance forms, which prohibit employment. Additionally, one woman was suspected of using and possessing a forged Hong Kong identity card. The two suspected employers, aged 24 and 27, were also detained.

“Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of him or her shall be guilty of an offence,” an ImmD spokesman stated. “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 HK$50,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment. Aiders and abettors are also subject to prosecution and penalties.”

The spokesman further emphasized the legal stipulations under section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, noting that illegal immigrants, overstayers, and persons under removal or deportation orders are strictly prohibited from any form of employment or business activities. Violators face up to HK$50,000 in fines and three years’ imprisonment. Moreover, using or possessing a forged identity card can lead to fines up to HK$100,000 and ten years’ imprisonment.

Employing individuals who are not lawfully employable is a serious offence with penalties significantly increased to reflect its gravity. Employers found guilty of such offences now face fines up to HK$500,000 and ten years’ imprisonment. The company’s director, manager, secretary, or partner may also bear criminal liability, with immediate custodial sentences emphasized by the High Court.

Employers are mandated to take practical steps to verify the lawful employability of prospective employees. This includes inspecting identity cards and conducting thorough inquiries to ensure no reasonable doubt exists. Failure to do so is not a defensible argument in legal proceedings. Employers must also inspect valid travel documents if the job seeker lacks a Hong Kong permanent identity card, with violators facing fines up to HK$150,000 and one year’s imprisonment.

The ImmD spokesman reiterated the department’s commitment to stringent enforcement, urging employers to comply with the law and avoid hiring illegal workers.

As part of their operations, the ImmD conducts initial screenings of vulnerable individuals, including illegal workers, sex workers, and foreign domestic helpers, to identify potential trafficking in persons (TIP) victims. Confirmed TIP victims receive support and assistance, including medical services, counselling, and temporary accommodation. The ImmD encourages TIP victims to report crimes immediately.

The comprehensive crackdown underscores Hong Kong’s stringent measures against illegal employment and its commitment to protecting vulnerable individuals from exploitation.