25,607 ‘fake refugee’ cases processed in Hong Kong over six years, costing over HK$6.3 billion

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17th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) Since the implementation of a unified screening mechanism in March 2014, Hong Kong has faced a persistent challenge of managing non-refoulement claims, often labelled as ‘fake refugee’ cases. Recent data reveals that the Immigration Department has processed 25,607 such cases by the end of February this year, with the majority originating from Vietnam, followed by Indonesia and India.

The financial implications have been significant, with over HK$6.3 billion spent over the past six years on related expenses. The 2024-25 budget outlines substantial allocations for various aspects of the claim process: HK$364 million for processing and review of claims and appeals, HK$59 million for deportations, HK$144 million for publicly-funded legal assistance, and HK$583 million for humanitarian assistance.

Significant increases in deportation activities have also been noted, with a 63% rise in 2023 compared to the previous year. The total number of deportations executed since the policy’s implementation stands at 2,204, underscoring the government’s intensified efforts to address the issue.

The Department of Social Welfare is set to provide humanitarian aid to 12,351 claimants, with a budget of HK$580 million for the 2023-24 period, while the Hospital Authority’s fee waivers for these claimants have amounted to HK$66 million.

Amendments to regulations last year saw the inclusion of additional detention facilities under the Immigration Department, increasing detention capacity by 33% to 900 places. This is part of a broader strategy to detain individuals who pose a greater risk to public security.

Further, in an attempt to curb the misuse of the non-refoulement claim system, the government has introduced a pre-notification passenger information system to better identify and intercept potential abusers of the system. Measures have also been taken to streamline the appeal process, reducing average processing times from over seven months to approximately four.

In terms of enforcement, the government remains committed to conducting a minimum of 12,000 inspections per year to target locations associated with illegal employment, reducing the economic incentives for making false claims.