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Immigration warns, illegal work can get you jailed for 15 months

18 May 2020

By The SUN
Migrant workers or tourists are not allowed to work in shops, restaurants & other business establishments
The Immigration Department has warned of the strict implementation of sentencing guidelines on illegal work in Hong Kong, after two overstaying Vietnamese nationals found working in a restaurant in Sheung Wan were each sentenced to 15 months in jail.

The two female illegal workers, aged 35 and 48, were sentenced at Shatin Magistrates Court on May 15 after pleading guilty to overstaying their visa and using false instruments.

They were arrested two days earlier during an anti-illegal worker operation conducted by Immigration investigators.

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Their employer was also arrested and is still being investigated.

At the same time, two local residents arrested after a raid in their restaurants in Tsuen Wan last year netted seven illegal workers, were also sentenced in the same court.

Each employer was sentenced to a total of two months and six weeks’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to four counts of hiring a person not lawfully employable.

The employers and their illegal workers were arrested during a raid on their restaurants on Jul 8, 2019, as part of Immigration’s operation “Twilight.” The illegal workers they hired were jailed earlier.

A spokesman for Immigration has warned that illegal immigrants or people who are subject to a removal or deportation order (as in the case of overstayers) are prohibited from taking up any job or engaging in business. Offenders face a maximum fine of $50,000 and three years’ imprisonment.

However, the Court of Appeal has laid down a sentencing guideline of 15 months’ jail in such cases.

Using or possessing a false instrument (such as a HKID card issued to another person or a altered or tampered passport) is an even more serious crime, with the maximum penalty set at 14 years’ imprisonment.

Employers of illegal workers face heftier penalties, with the maximum sentence prescribed as imprisonment for three years and a fine of $350,000. An immediate custodial sentence has been ruled by the High Court in such cases.

According to the court, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee's identity card, the employer must also make further inquiries to ensure the lawful employability of the job applicant. Failure to do so will not be accepted as a defense in court proceedings.
Not inspecting the job seeker’s HK ID card is also a serious crime, with the employer being liable to a maximum sentence of imprisonment for a year and a fine of $150,000.

As part of its operations, Immigration will also screen illegal workers, including those holding a foreign domestic worker’s visa, illegal immigrants, and sex workers, to determine if they are victims of human trafficking.

Anyone idenfitied as a trafficked victim will undergo debriefing by Immigration, which will also provide various forms of assistance, including urgent intervention, medical services, counseling, shelter, temporary accommodation and other support services.

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