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Tightened laws to speed up torture claims processing take effect on Aug 1

19 July 2021

By The SUN 

Immigration may now start deportation arrangements even while an appeal is pending

An amendment to the Immigration Ordinance aimed at tightening procedures for screening non-refoulement claims, or those made by people trying to oppose their deportation back to their home country will take effect starting Aug. 1.

In a press release issued today, Jul 19, the government said the new provisions under the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 are meant to prevent claimants’ “delaying tactics”, and step up their interception at source, removal and detention.

(The press release can be found here:


Procedures will also be tightened at the Torture Claims Appeal Board (TCAB) to speed up the processing of cases.

But the statement assured that the new procedures, which will apply to all claims filed from next month, will continue to follow legal standards of “high standards of fairness” as set down by the courts.

For claims and appeals made before Aug 1 but pending decisions by Immigration or TCAB, they will be handled under separate provisions in the amended ordinance. Further updates on this, with clear information to claimants and other relevant parties, will be issued on Aug. 1.

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But in line with the new rules, once an immigration officer has rejected a claim, repatriation arrangements will be started, even when an appeal is pending. Such arrangements may include liaising with the consulate on obtaining a travel document for the claimant, and arranging for flights with airlines.

The penalties for hiring holders of recognizance documents who are not legally employable have also been jacked up. From the current maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment and fine of up to $350,000, employers now face a maximum or 10 years in prison and fine of up to $500,000.

The director, manager, secretary or other listed officers of the company concerned may also face prosecution.


“In that connection, the Government would like to remind all employers not to defy the law and employ illegal workers,” said the statement. “The law enforcement agencies will continue to take resolute enforcement action to combat such offences.”

Employers of illegal workers now face up to 10 years in prison and $500k fine

The amended rules also require claimants to attend interviews upon the request of the Immigration Department. If a claimant fails to attend an interview, Immigration may still decide on the claim.

During the screening interview, an interpretation service will be provided if needed. But “under certain unique circumstances” (such as when there is no available interpreter in the language requested by the claimant), Immigration may conduct the proceedings in a language it “reasonably considers the claimant being able to understand.”


In cases where the physical or mental condition of a claimant is in dispute, Immigration may order the claimant to undergo a medical examination. If the claimant refuses to comply, Immigration may decide not to take into account the claimant’s disputed physical or mental condition.

In cases of appeals, the TCAB may also exercise the same powers pertaining to language and medical examinations of claimants. In addition, the TCAB may shorten the required notice period of 28 days for appeal hearings, though it should not be less than seven days.

In addition, the government will continue to exercise the right to detain claimants it deems to pose higher security risks to the community. Detainees will either be held at Castle Peak Immigration Centre which has a maximum capacity of 500 people, or the Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution which has a detention capacity of 160.

In line with this, Immigration will consider and decide on the period of detention, taking into account relevant legal principles and detention policy.

In future, subsidiary legislation may be implemented that will allow the Secretary for Security to implement the Advanced Passenger Information (API) system to further enhance the government’s ability to detect claimants at source, or before they can fly out to Hong Kong.

“The government is determined to address the problems arising from non-refoulement claims,” said the statement.

“Upon the commencement of the Amendment Ordinance, the executive authorities will be able to handle matters related to non-refoulement claims more effectively.”

Latest government figures show that there are currently around 13,000 people fighting deportation from Hong Kong. Their chances of succeeding are low, if past statistics are to be considered.

In the past 11 years, a total of 22,737 torture or non-refoulement claims had been made. Of these, only 231, or about 1% of the claimants, were able to substantiate their claims. Since 2019, not a single claim has succeeded.

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