Immigration Department launches “Swordfish” operation, arrests suspected illegal workers and employers

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20th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Immigration Department (ImmD) executed a large-scale operation named “Swordfish” today (May 20) to crack down on illegal workers across the territory. In the course of the operation, seven individuals suspected of being illegal workers and three suspected employers were apprehended.

ImmD investigators conducted raids at over 10 target locations, including restaurants, a retail store, grocery shops, and industrial buildings. The suspected illegal workers, comprising six women and one man aged between 24 and 49, were found performing various tasks such as dishwashing, food processing, and delivery. Among them, three were foreign domestic helpers, three were overstayers, and one possessed a recognisance form, which prohibits employment.

The three male suspects, aged 37 to 58, were believed to have employed the suspected illegal workers. ImmD investigators uncovered evidence of their involvement in the unlawful employment of these individuals.

An ImmD spokesperson emphasized that foreign domestic helpers should strictly adhere to their employment contracts and should not engage in any other form of work, including part-time domestic duties for other individuals. Employers, likewise, should not require or permit domestic helpers to undertake work for anyone else.

The spokesperson highlighted that contravening the conditions of stay is an offence, and visitors are prohibited from engaging in any form of employment in Hong Kong without the Director of Immigration’s permission. Offenders face prosecution and, upon conviction, may receive a maximum fine of HKD 50,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. Aiders and abettors will also be subject to legal action and penalties.

The spokesperson issued a stern warning, stressing that individuals who are illegal immigrants, subject to removal or deportation orders, overstayers, or those refused permission to land are strictly prohibited from seeking employment or establishing businesses. Violators face a maximum fine of HKD 50,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment upon conviction.

The spokesperson reemphasized that employing individuals who are not eligible for lawful employment is a serious offence. Under the Immigration Ordinance, the penalties for employers have been significantly increased to reflect the gravity of such offences. The maximum penalty now stands at a fine of HKD 500,000 and 10 years’ imprisonment. The director, manager, secretary, partner, or other relevant parties within the company may also face criminal liability. The High Court has established sentencing guidelines, recommending immediate custodial sentences for employers found guilty of employing illegal workers.