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4 torture claimants among 21 arrested for suspected illegal work

12 February 2021

By The SUN 

The flower market in Victoria Park was among those targeted

The Lunar New Year markets were targeted by Immigration officers in a four-day sweep against suspected illegal workers that lasted from Feb 7 to 10.

A total of 16 suspected illegal workers, including four torture claimants; four suspected of having hired them; and a suspected abettor were arrested in the continuation of operation “Twilight”.

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A press statement released by Immigration on Feb.11 said officers raided 22 target locations including a car washing company, a garbage collection depot, an industrial building, a logistics centre, a residential flat, restaurants, a store and vegetable stalls.

The suspected illegal workers comprised 12 men and four women, aged 25 to 68. Among them, four men were holders of recognizance forms (or those granted temporary liberty while appealing deportation cases) which prohibit them from taking any employment.

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In addition, two men and two women were found in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards, while another man and one woman were suspected of using HKIDs belonging to other people.

Also arrested were one man and three women, aged 37 to 59, on suspicion of employing the suspected illegal workers. A woman suspected of aiding and abetting a person who breached his condition of stay was also arrested.

Picture of some of the arrests in govt press statement

The raids also targeted stalls at seven Lunar New Year markets in Causeway Bay, Kwai Chung, Sha Tin, Sheung Shui, Sham Shui Po, Tsuen Wan and Yuen Long. Stall keepers were given leaflets reminding them against employing illegal workers.

The press statement said visitors who contravene a condition of stay, including taking up unapproved employment, whether paid or unpaid, is guilty of an offence. Offenders may be prosecuted and upon conviction, fined a maximum of $50,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment. Aiders and abettors are likewise liable to prosecution.

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Illegal immigrants or those subject of a removal or deportation order are likewise prohibited from taking up any kind of employment. If convicted of violating this prohibition, they can be fined a maximum of $50,000 and a jail term of up to three years. The statement said the Court of Appeal has already issued a guideline of 15 months’ imprisonment for violators.

Those who use forged HKID cards or those belonging to another person face even more severe penalties. They could be prosecuted and upon conviction, fined a maximum of $100,000 and jailed for up to 10 years.

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Equally severe are the penalties imposed on those who employ people who are not allowed to work in Hong Kong. They could be fined up to $350,000 and jailed for up to three years. The statement said the High Court has ruled that immediate custodial sentence should be imposed on those found guilty of these offences.

The court has also said employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting the job applicant’s identity card, the employer must also conduct inquiries that would dispel any reasonable doubt about the applicant’s lawful employability. Failure to do this will not be acceptable as a defense in court proceedings.

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Employers may also be prosecuted if they don’t inspect a job seeker's valid travel document if the applicant does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. The maximum penalty for failing to inspect such a document is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.

When conducting anti-illegal work operations, Immigration officers are obliged as part of standard procedure to conduct an initial screening to determine whether vulnerable persons such as illegal workers, illegal immigrants, sex workers and foreign domestic helpers are victims of human trafficking.

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Those identified as trafficking victims will be provided assistance, including urgent intervention, medical services, counselling, shelter, temporary accommodation and other support services.

 

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