22nd September 2023 – (Hong Kong) In a series of joint operations, the Hong Kong Immigration Department (ImmD) collaborated with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department to target illegal workers and enforce immigration regulations. Codenamed “Lightshadow,” “Twilight,” “Powerplayer,” and “Windsand,” the operations spanned four consecutive days from 18th to 21st September. A total of 20 suspected illegal workers, seven suspected employers, six overstayers, and one individual who violated their stay conditions were apprehended.
During the anti-illegal worker operation, ImmD Task Force officers conducted raids at 60 locations, including massage parlours, restaurants, and retail shops. Three suspected illegal workers, comprising one man and two women aged 21 to 49, were arrested. Additionally, three women aged 44 were apprehended on suspicion of employing the illegal workers.
Under Operation “Powerplayer,” enforcement officers targeted 196 locations across the Central, Eastern, Wan Chai, and Western districts. Fifteen suspected illegal workers, four suspected employers, six overstayers, and one individual who breached their stay conditions were arrested. Among the arrested illegal workers were one man and 14 women aged 26 to 49. Notably, five women were found to be holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. Two women were suspected of using and possessing forged Hong Kong identity cards. Two men and two women aged 35 to 71 were apprehended for employing the illegal workers. Additionally, two male and four female overstayers aged 25 to 49 were arrested, along with one male Mainland fisherman deckhand aged 29 who violated his stay conditions.
In the operation codenamed “Windsand,” two Mainland visitors, both women aged 36 and 41, were arrested in Sheung Shui district for engaging in suspected parallel goods trading involving milk powder and healthcare products, thereby violating their stay conditions.
An ImmD spokesman emphasized the legal consequences of breaching stay conditions, stating that offenders face prosecution and penalties. The spokesman highlighted that visitors are prohibited from employment in Hong Kong without the Director of Immigration’s permission, and individuals contravening this regulation can face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment. Furthermore, offenders who use or possess forged Hong Kong identity cards may be subject to a maximum fine of $100,000 and up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The spokesman reiterated the seriousness of employing individuals who are not lawfully employable, citing the increased penalties under the Immigration Ordinance. Employers who hire illegal immigrants, overstayers, or individuals with removal orders may face a fine of $500,000 and up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The director, manager, secretary, partner, or others responsible within the company may also face criminal liability, as per court sentencing guidelines.
The ImmD follows a standard procedure of initial screening for vulnerable individuals, including illegal workers, during operations. This screening aims to identify potential victims of trafficking in persons (TIP). When TIP indicators are revealed, ImmD officers conduct thorough debriefings and use a checklist to determine the presence of TIP elements, such as coercion and exploitation. Identified TIP victims receive support and assistance, including intervention, medical services, counselling, shelter, and other necessary services. TIP victims are encouraged to report crimes promptly to the relevant departments.