Over 14,900 non-refoulement claimants still remain in Hong Kong as at end-September 2022

583

23rd November 2022 – (Hong Kong) The Government has all along adopted a multi-pronged strategy to proactively handle non-refoulement claims, including maintaining high efficiency in screening non-refoulement claims, expediting the processing of appeals and removal of unsubstantiated claimants from Hong Kong, stepping up the management of immigration detainees, expanding detention capacity, as well as strengthening enforcement actions against immigration offences and illegal employment.
 
Having consulted the Health Bureau and relevant departments (i.e. the Immigration Department (ImmD), the Hong Kong Police Force (the Police), the Correctional Services Department (CSD) and the Social Welfare Department (SWD)), the consolidated reply to Hon Joephy Chan’s question is as follows:
 
According to ImmD’s information, as at end-September 2022, there were over 14,900 claimants remaining in Hong Kong, including about 200 claimants with their claims pending determination by the ImmD, about 2,800 claimants with their appeals against ImmD’s decision pending determination by the Torture Claims Appeal Board (TCAB), about 8,200 claimants with on-going applications to the Court for judicial review after their claims/appeals were rejected/dismissed by the ImmD/TCAB or other litigation proceedings, as well as about 1,500 claimants being imprisoned, remanded, involved in ongoing prosecution or investigation process, or remaining in Hong Kong due to other reasons. Removal was being arranged for the remaining some 2,200 claimants. The breakdowns by nationality and status in Hong Kong of the aforesaid non-refoulement claimants are tabulated below:

NationalityNumber of claimants
(as at September 2022)
Vietnamese3,056
Indonesian2,470
Pakistani2,395
Indian1,975
Bangladeshi1,741
Filipino1,343
Nepali312
Sri Lankan298
Nigerian236
Others1,135
Total14,961
Status in Hong KongNumber of claimants
(as at September 2022)
Illegal immigrants6,668
Overstayers6,999
Others (including persons being refused entry, persons born in Hong Kong with the right of abode in Hong Kong not established)1,294
Total14,961

According to ImmD’s information, from January to September 2022, a total of 304 non-ethnic Chinese (NEC) persons on recognisance and issued with Form No. 8 (mainly non-refoulement claimants) were arrested for taking up unlawful employment contrary to section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115). The breakdown by their nationality is tabulated below:

NationalityNumber of persons arrested
(from January to September 2022)
Indonesian125
Vietnamese46
Bangladeshi37
Pakistani37
Indian30
Filipino18
Nepali4
Thai2
Others5
Total304

Separately, according to the Police’s information, from January to September 2022, a total of 528 NEC persons on recognisance and issued with Form No. 8 (mainly non-refoulement claimants) were arrested for criminal offences. The breakdowns by their nationality and crime category are tabulated below:

NationalityNumber of persons arrested
(from January to September 2022)
Vietnamese126
Indian104
Pakistani99
Indonesian18
Filipino17
Sri Lankan11
Nepali10
Thai1
Others142
Total528
OffenceNumber of persons arrested
(from January to September 2022)
Shop theft111
Miscellaneous thefts79
Serious drug offences64
Wounding and serious assault45
Serious immigration offences (Note 1)24
Burglary20
Criminal damage19
Others (Note 2)166
Total528

Note 1: “Serious immigration offences” include aiding and abetting illegal immigrants, arranging passage of unauthorised entrants to Hong Kong, using an identity card relating to another person.
Note 2: “Others” include forgery and coinage, offences against public order, pickpocketing, disorder/fighting in public places, possession of offensive weapon.

According to CSD’s information, in the past five years, the number of NEC persons on recognisance and issued with Form No. 8 (mainly non-refoulement claimants) who were imprisoned/remanded for criminal offences is tabulated below:

 2018 (as at end-December)2019 (as at end-December)2020 (as at end-December)2021 (as at end-December)2022 (as at end-September)
Number of persons who were imprisoned/
remanded
245182142183169

The management of the above NEC persons is part of the daily management work of the CSD, which does not maintain a breakdown of the relevant expenditure involved.

(4) Pursuant to sections 32 and 37ZK of the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115), persons pending removal or persons pending final determination of their non-refoulement claims may be detained. Under the prevailing detention policy, the Government will, in determining whether a person should be detained, take into consideration all relevant facts and circumstances of the case, including whether the person concerned has previously committed serious offences, whether the person concerned, if not being detained, poses (or is likely to pose) a threat or security risk to the community, whether there is any risk of the person absconding and/or (re)offending. The Government will, in accordance with the prevailing law, policy and mechanism, continue to conduct regular and timely review on each case to determine if the person concerned should continue to be detained, and will notify the person of the review results with justifications. The number of claimants detained at the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC), the Ma Tau Kok Detention Centre (MTKDC) and the Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution (TGCI) is tabulated below: 

 Number of non-refoulement claimants detained (Note 1)
2019 (as at end- December)2020 (as at end- December)2021 (as at end- December)2022 (as at end-September)
CIC291215225206
MTKDC1192730
TGCI (Note 2)98132

Note 1: The ImmD does not maintain the relevant breakdown for 2018 or before.
Note 2: The TGCI re-commissioned on May 28, 2021 for detaining non-refoulement claimants.

     Separately, according to ImmD’s information, in the past five years, the operating expenditure of CIC (including management of facilities, meal and medical costs of detainees and staff remuneration) is tabulated below:

 2018/192019/202020/212021/222022/23
(estimate)
Total operating expenditure of CIC ($ million) (Note 1)106110134144162

Note 1: The ImmD does not maintain the breakdown of the operating expenditure relating to non-refoulement claimants.

For the MTKDC, the section responsible for managing its daily operation is also responsible for handling matters relating to removal and deportation, the ImmD does not maintain a breakdown of the operating expenditure of the MTKDC alone. As regards the TGCI, its management is part of the daily management work of the CSD, which does not maintain a breakdown of the operating expenditure of the TGCI alone.

Currently, the CIC and TGCI provide a detention capacity of 660 in total, which may be used for detaining non-refoulement claimants or other persons pending removal. To further enhance the ImmD’s ability to detain non-refoulement claimants, the Government plans to redeploy the Nei Kwu Correctional Institution (with a detention capacity of 240) for detention purpose, and will brief the Panel on Security of the Legislative Council on the details in December 2022.

According to ImmD’s information, from January to September 2022, a total of 785 claimants were repatriated from Hong Kong. The breakdown by their nationality is tabulated below: 

NationalityNumber of repatriated persons
(from January to September 2022)
Indian181
Pakistani109
Bangladeshi108
Vietnamese105
Indonesian102
Filipino39
Others141
Total785

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the repatriation process of non-refoulement claimants by the ImmD has been hindered to a certain extent by various factors, including very limited or even suspended international flights, special requests imposed by countries of origin of unsubstantiated claimants during the pandemic, processing time of re-entry facilities for unsubstantiated claimants by relevant consulates. Notwithstanding that, the ImmD managed to remove a total of 632, 753 and 785 unsubstantiated claimants from Hong Kong in 2020, 2021 and 2022 (from January to September) respectively. With gradual resumption of international flights, the ImmD will continue to adopt a multi-pronged approach and maintain close liaison with relevant stakeholders, including consulates and airlines, with a view to expediting removal of unsubstantiated claimants from Hong Kong, including arranging special flights for large-scale removal operations as necessary and as the circumstances so warrant.

(7) According to SWD’s information, in the past five years, the Government’s total expenditure on humanitarian assistance provided for non-refoulement claimants (including allowance for temporary accommodation, food, transportation, basic utilities) is tabulated below:

 2018/192019/202020/212021/222022/23 (estimate)
Total expenditure on humanitarian assistance ($ million) (Note 1)531482540579698

Note 1: The SWD does not maintain a breakdown of the expenditure.

In terms of healthcare services, non-refoulement claimants are by definition Non-Eligible Persons (NEP). The Hospital Authority (HA) will, on the premise that medical services for local residents are not affected, provide NEPs with medical services, including the provision of optimal treatment for patients confirmed with COVID-19. NEPs who receive medical services from the HA are required to pay medical fees in accordance with the rates specified in the Gazette. To ensure rational use of limited public resources, there is in general no waiving of medical fees for NEPs unless there are exceptional circumstances and financial hardship. The amount of medical fees waived for non-refoulement claimants by the HA in the past five years is tabulated below:

 2018/192019/202020/212021/222022/23
(as at end-September 2022)
Amount waived ($ million)7657638443

As regards COVID-19 vaccination, given public health considerations, the Government provides vaccination for non-refoulement claimants and refugees recognised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who are in Hong Kong. These relevant persons can, through the International Social Service Hong Kong Branch, indicate their intention of receiving vaccination. The Government will arrange the relevant persons to receive vaccination at designated Community Vaccination Centres. As at 18th November, 2022, around 13,400 such persons have made requests to the Government through the International Social Service Hong Kong Branch to be arranged to receive COVID-19 vaccines under the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme. In addition, non-refoulement claimants on recognizance and issued with Form No. 8 by ImmD who are tested positive for COVID-19 can be arranged to be admitted to community isolation facilities where necessary.

(8) The Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 that came into effect on 1st August, 2021 further enhanced the arrangements for handling non-refoulement claims, including enhancing efficiency in screening claims and handling appeals, preventing various delaying tactics, as well as strengthening measures in respect of interception at source, enforcement, removal and detention of claimants. The Government has no plan to further amend the Immigration Ordinance for the time being. 

Separately, noting that a large proportion of claimants have lodged applications to the Court for leave to apply for judicial review (JR) after their claims/appeals are rejected/dismissed in order to prolong their illegal stay in Hong Kong, the Government will update the removal policy such that ImmD may generally proceed with removal of unsubstantiated claimants from Hong Kong upon the Court of First Instance’s dismissal of the JR leave applications. The Government will brief the Panel on Security of the Legislative Council on the details in December 2022.

Comments