28th January 2022 – (Hong Kong) The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide anti-illegal worker operations codenamed “Twilight” on 24th and 25th January, and yesterday. A total of eight suspected illegal workers, one suspected employer and one suspected aider and abettor were arrested.
During the “Twilight” operations, ImmD Task Force officers raided 17 target locations including industrial buildings, premises under renovation and restaurants. Eight suspected illegal workers, one suspected employer and one suspected aider and abettor were arrested. The arrested suspected illegal workers comprised two men and six women, aged 28 to 54. Among them, one man and three women were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. In addition, one man was suspected of using a Hong Kong identity card related to another person. One man, aged 38, was suspected of employing the illegal workers. Meanwhile, one woman, aged 52, suspected of aiding and abetting a person who breached their condition of stay in Hong Kong, was also arrested.
“Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of him or her shall be guilty of an offence. Also, visitors are not allowed to take employment in Hong Kong, whether paid or unpaid, without the permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction face a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution and penalties,” an ImmD spokesman said.
The spokesman warned that, as stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, an illegal immigrant, a person who is the subject of a removal order or a deportation order, an overstayer or a person who was refused permission to land is prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment. Under the prevailing laws, it is an offence to use or possess a forged Hong Kong identity card or a Hong Kong identity card related to another person. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction face a maximum fine of HK$100,000 and up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The spokesman reiterated that it is a serious offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. Under the Immigration Ordinance, the maximum penalty for an employer employing a person who is not lawfully employable, i.e. an illegal immigrant, a person who is the subject of a removal order or a deportation order, an overstayer or a person who was refused permission to land, has been significantly increased from a fine of HK$350,000 and three years’ imprisonment to a fine of HK$500,000 and 10 years’ imprisonment to reflect the gravity of such offences. The director, manager, secretary, partner, etc, of the company concerned may also bear criminal liability. The High Court has laid down sentencing guidelines that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence.
According to the court sentencing, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee’s identity card, the employer has the explicit duty to make enquiries regarding the person and ensure that the answers would not cast any reasonable doubt concerning the lawful employability of the person. The court will not accept failure to do so as a defence in proceedings. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker’s valid travel document if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of HK$150,000 and to imprisonment for one year. In that connection, the spokesman would like to remind all employers not to defy the law by employing illegal workers. The ImmD will continue to take resolute enforcement action to combat such offences.