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Overstaying Pinay draws judge’s ire for asylum bid

22 March 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina sentenced in Eastern Court on Mar 7 to four weeks in jail for shoplifting drew rebuke from the magistrate for seeking asylum shortly after being arrested for overstaying in Hong Kong for 13 years.

Emelita Arista, a 56-year-old former domestic worker, incensed Magistrate Bina Chainrai when the prosecution said the defendant filed a non-refoulement claim with the Immigration Department shortly after her arrest.  The defendant claimed a nephew of hers in the Philippines was threatening to kill her.

Arista pleaded guilty on March 7 to a second charge of theft for stealing three bottles of lotion and three cans of luncheon meat in a Wellcome supermarket in Sunway Garden, Quarry Bay, on Feb 19. Chainrai gave Arista a two-week discount for her guilty plea to the theft charge, but set the defendant’s plea-taking and sentence for the first charge of breach of condition of stay for April .
The prosecution amended the first charge after finding out that Arista arrived as a visitor in Hong Kong and did not leave before April 10, 2004.

Chainrai was upset when the prosecutor applied for a four-week adjournment in view of a non-refoulement claim that Arista had filed following her arrest by police on Feb 19.

“After defendant was arrested in 2017 only did she become an asylum-seeker?” Chainrai asked angrily.

“In this situation, the prosecution must revisit her case. If somebody overstays for 13 years and applies for asylum after being arrested, it is an abuse of the system, especially when there are so many others with more valid reasons,” she said.

Arista was undetected as an overstayer and Immigration authorities were not certain about her identity and the exact date she came to Hong Kong because she had no passport. Prosecutors earlier said her visitor’s visa was granted sometime in August 2006.

When Chainrai asked Arista on March 7 if that was her first visit to Hong Kong, she said no, adding she had been a domestic helper here for six years before going home. She then returned to Hong Kong as a tourist in 2004.

Her overstaying case came to light only on Feb 19 after she was caught trying to sneak out of the supermarket with three bottles of lotion and three cans of luncheon meat.

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