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LCQ17: Torture claims

     Following is a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung in the Legislative Council today (June 6):


     The United Nations' Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been applied to Hong Kong since 1992, and non-Hong Kong residents in Hong Kong may make torture claims to the Immigration Department (ImmD).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of torture claim cases received by ImmD in each of the past three years; the main nationalities of such torture claimants (claimants); the number of cases pending assessment to date; the number of persons who had withdrawn their claims on their own or requested to return voluntarily to their places of origin during the period; the number of claims assessed in the past three years, and among them, the number of claims substantiated; the average time required for assessing a claim, as well as the administrative and legal aid expenses required for a claim; the follow-up arrangement generally made by the authorities in respect of claimants of unsubstantiated claims;

(b) of the expenses on providing support to claimants by the authorities in the past three years to meet the basic needs of their daily lives; the number of persons who had received such support;

(c) of the number of cases of the overseas domestic helpers working in Hong Kong making torture claims in the past three years; whether there was a rising trend; among these cases, of the number of claimants permitted to stay in Hong Kong because their torture claims had been substantiated;

(d) of the number of claimants in Hong Kong who had been arrested for committing various types of criminal offences in the past three years, and the major offences committed by them; of the number of such claimants who were convicted; and

(e) whether the authorities have any mechanism in place at present for following up or recording the conditions of the daily lives and accommodation of each claimant during the period of waiting for assessment in Hong Kong; if so, of the percentage of cases in which contact with the claimants was lost in the total number of cases; whether the authorities will review the existing policy (including examining the establishment of facilities for sheltering such claimants) to facilitate follow-up actions; if they will not, of the reasons for that?



     The Immigration Department (ImmD) is responsible for handling torture claims made under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).  From 1992 to 2008, the ImmD has received a total of 4,574 claims.  In December 2008, the ImmD suspended the screening process following a court judgment on a judicial review case regarding the screening procedures.  In December 2009, the ImmD resumed screening under the enhanced mechanism.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The number of new torture claims received in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was 3,286, 1,809 and 1,432 respectively. Another 468 claims were received in the first five months of 2012.  Together with claims received in or before 2008, we have received a total of 11,569 torture claims so far.  Claimants mainly came from countries in South or Southeast Asia, including Pakistan (30% of all claims), India (20%), Indonesia (14%), Bangladesh (11%), etc.

     Out of all claims, the screening of 3,903 cases was terminated since the claimants had withdrawn their claims or departed from Hong Kong.  The ImmD has completed screening of 1,865 claims under the enhanced screening mechanism, with no substantiated case (Note).  At present, around 5,800 claims are pending screening.

     In general, for simple cases with no appeals lodged, the screening process can be completed in three to four months.  If claimants lodge appeals against the ImmD's decision, it would take five to six months to complete the screening process.  In the year 2011/12, the ImmD has completed screening of 1,200 cases.  In the same year, the Administration's expenditure on staff cost for handling torture claims and provision of publicly-funded legal assistance was $146 million in total.  For persons whose claim is not substantiated, the ImmD will arrange for the removal of that person to his place of origin as soon as practicable.

(b) The Administration provides humanitarian assistance (including accommodation, food, clothing, other basic necessities and transportation fees, etc.) to claimants or asylum seekers in need through non-governmental organisations.  As at the end of the years 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 respectively, 5,258, 5,825 and 5,703 persons were receiving such assistance.  The corresponding expenditure on humanitarian assistance was respectively $124 million, $151 million and $143 million.

(c) In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the number of new torture claims lodged by former foreign domestic helpers was 478, 606 and 437 respectively.  There was no substantiated case so far.

(d) In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the number of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants or overstayers released on recognisance (most being torture claimants) arrested for other criminal offences was 509, 735 and 674 respectively, involving mainly illegal employment, theft, assault or drug-related offences.  We do not have statistics pinpointing only crimes committed by torture claimants.

(e) As at May 31, 2012, out of the some 5,800 claimants pending screening, 118 were being detained and the rest were released on recognisance.  When being released on recognisance, claimants are required to report to the ImmD regularly and provide their latest residential address.  As at the same day, among claimants being released on recognisance, 260 persons did not report to the ImmD at the specified time.  The ImmD has already passed their particulars to the wanted list of the Police.  We will monitor the situation closely and review the arrangement as necessary.

(Note: Only one case was substantiated before December 2009.)

Ends/Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:50


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