2nd December 202 3- (Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s legislative council is set to convene the Panel on Security on Tuesday (5th), amid a protracted struggle with false asylum seekers in the city. As per the documents submitted recently by the Immigration Department, as of the end of October this year, approximately 14,700 non-refoulement protection claimants continue to reside in Hong Kong for various reasons.
The government, in its efforts to expedite the processing of related appeal cases, has optimised case-handling mechanisms and appointed more members as per the need. Consequently, the Appeal Board processed 1,572 cases in 2022 and has already completed handling 2,256 cases from January to October this year. However, as of the end of October 2023, there are still approximately 1,430 appeal cases pending.
Suggestions have been made about the establishment of detention camps for the containment of false refugees. However, authorities maintain that there are no current plans for such provisions.
The documents further indicate that the Appeal Board continually endeavours to expedite the handling of non-refoulement appeal cases, aiming to complete the processing of no fewer than 3,000 cases within 2023. Despite a recent increase in the number of new non-refoulement claims potentially leading to an increased caseload for the Appeal Board, they continue to streamline workflows. For example, they set targeted processing times for each procedure and closely monitor the progress of handling appeal cases. The objective is to enhance the efficiency of processing appeal cases, reducing the average processing time from over seven months to approximately four months.
Regarding the management of detention facilities, the government has implemented several legislative amendments to improve the treatment of detainees held by the Immigration Department, starting last month. These measures have standardised the statutory treatment of detainees in three locations: the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre, Stanley Prison, and Lo Wu Correctional Institution, thus reinforcing the discipline and order within detention facilities. Currently, the average usage rate of these three detention facilities is about 80%.
There are opinions suggesting that the government should establish reception centres or detention camps to detain non-refoulement claimants. The authorities have responded that when considering different detention schemes and policies, various factors must be carefully weighed. These include the legality and proportionality, feasibility of the policy, and whether the resources involved are being used effectively to achieve policy objectives and public interest.
Based on past court cases, the government must consider whether the period of detention is reasonable in all circumstances when detaining claimants. It must also consider multiple aspects, such as land, infrastructure, manpower, and management. Therefore, currently, there are no plans to establish such facilities. The authorities reiterate that they will continue to make good use of the existing detention facilities to detain claimants who pose a higher risk to social security.