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LCQ2: Immigration Service staff

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon Yiu Si-wing in the Legislative Council today (November 20):


     It has been reported that on the evening of October 27, this year, a large number of departing visitors were stranded at the Shenzhen Bay Control Point due to inadequate manpower of the Immigration Department (ImmD) performing immigration control duties at that control point, and the waiting time for departure clearance of these visitors was as long as four hours. It has also been reported that there has been a shortfall of manpower in ImmD for a long time, resulting in exceedingly long working hours of the frontline staff, compression of their rest breaks and accumulation of the untaken leave balance of many staff members reaching nearly the ceiling. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the total number and annual growth rate of staff of ImmD, and among them, the number and annual growth rate of staff responsible for performing immigration control duties, in each year since 2003; how such growth rates compare with those of visitors coming to Hong Kong in the same period;

(b) of the duty hours and rest break arrangements of ImmD staff performing immigration control duties; the situation of untaken leave accumulated by such staff in the past three years, and how the authorities handled cases in which the accumulated untaken leave balance of ImmD staff had reached the ceiling but the staff members concerned were unable to take leave due to operational needs; and

(c) given the continuous increase in the number of visitors coming to Hong Kong in recent years and the successive commissioning of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in the middle of this year, the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link in late 2015, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge in 2016 and the Liantang Control Point in 2018, whether the authorities will, in response to the increase in the number of boundary control points, expand the staffing establishment of ImmD and enhance the efficiency of immigration control work to alleviate the work pressure of frontline staff?



     Hong Kong is a very popular international trade and tourism hub. The overall volume of inbound and outbound passenger traffic via various immigration control points has kept on rising in the past decade. To maintain quality and effective immigration clearance service, the Immigration Department (ImmD) has been closely monitoring passenger traffic growth and strived to strengthen its manpower and other resources for control points in accordance with the established mechanism as necessary. The performance pledge of the ImmD for land boundary control points is to clear 98% of Hong Kong residents within 15 minutes and 95% of visitors within 30 minutes. Whilst the ImmD has been able to meet the performance pledge in overall terms, some visitors may experience a longer waiting time for clearance due to the huge number of passengers travelling through control points during peak hours.

     To cope with the continuous upsurge of immigration control workload, the ImmD has all along adopted a multi-pronged approach by flexibly implementing various measures to enhance clearance efficiency and shorten visitors' waiting time.  Efforts have also been made to alleviate the work pressure of frontline staff as far as possible.

     The Administration's reply to various parts of the question raised by the Hon Yiu Si-wing is as followsĄG

(a) The ImmD currently has an establishment of 6 954 posts. When compared with the establishment ten years ago, i.e. 2003, there has been an increase of 884 posts in total, representing a growth rate of 14.6%. The current establishment of frontline uniformed staff responsible for performing immigration control duties at various control points is 3 344 posts, which is 750 more than that in 2003, representing a growth rate of 28.9%. In other words, frontline uniformed staff responsible for performing immigration control duties accounted for 85% of the increase in the establishment of the ImmD over the past ten years. For details on the establishment, strength and annual growth rate, please refer to the Annex.

     As for passenger traffic, the overall inbound passenger traffic for Hong Kong in 2003 was 76 million (15 million of which were visitors). In 2012, the overall inbound passenger traffic was 134 million (48 million of which were visitors). The growth rate over the ten-year period was 76%.

(b) The conditioned hours for Immigration Service staff are 44 gross per week. To cater for operational needs of different control points such as passenger traffic volume, frontline staff at control points are required to work in shifts, which are broadly divided into morning, mid-day and night shifts. As the operation of different control points varies, the duration of different shifts may not be the same. In any case, to ensure that staff have sufficient rest time, a minimum 12-hour interval is usually provided between shifts. The management also ensures that the gross conditioned hours will be adhered to in compiling duty rosters.

     Frontline staff at control points are usually given a rest break every two hours during their duty. Those who work for seven full hours or more are entitled to a one-hour meal break in accordance with the Civil Service Regulations. Generally speaking, frontline staff will have a day off after every three to four days of work.

     The ImmD attaches great importance to leave benefits of the staff, who are encouraged and arranged to take their leave provided that the operational needs of public service are met. An immigration staff member is provided with at least one continuous vacation leave period in a year. A higher priority to take vacation leave would be given to immigration staff with leave balance close to the maximum accumulation limit or those who have other special needs. Such arrangement ensures that no immigration staff would lose their accumulated leave.

     The average accumulated leave balance of ImmD frontline staff has shown a decreasing trend over the past three years. As at September 1 of the year, frontline staff had an average accumulated leave of 99 days in 2011, 93 days in 2012 and 90 days in 2013. The management of the ImmD will take into consideration leave arrangements for staff in the course of manpower deployment.

(c) In the coming years, several new control points will commence operation. The Administration will consider the requirement for additional staffing under the existing mechanism. Separately, to cope with the substantial and ongoing increase of passengers, the ImmD will continue to carry out various measures, including improving the existing facilities of control points, making more flexible deployment of manpower, streamlining its workflow and taking further advantage of information technology, etc. with a view to shortening passenger clearance time and alleviating the work pressure of frontline staff. The relevant measures carried out in recent years, such as the Frequent Visitor e-Channel service and non-stamping arrangement for visitors, have shown positive results. We will continue to closely monitor the effectiveness of the above measures and consider the need for manpower and other resources in the light of the passenger traffic growth.

Ends/Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:36


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