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LCQ18: Non-refoulement claims

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (February 24):


     According to a paper submitted to the Panel on Security of this Council by the Security Bureau on February 2 this year, the public expenditure on the handling of torture claims/non-refoulement claims and related work has been increasing continuously in the past few years from $287 million in 2010-2011 to an estimated $644 million for 2015-2016, representing a rate of increase of over 124 per cent. However, such expenditure has not yet included the relevant costs in relation to the legal aid granted to claimants for lodging judicial reviews, the provision of public healthcare services for them, and the institution of prosecutions by the Department of Justice against claimants suspected of having committed crimes. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of claimants who were granted leave by the court in each of the past 10 years to lodge judicial reviews in respect of their claims, and the amount of legal aid expenditure incurred in such cases (set out in a table);

(2) of the number of claimants' attendances for public healthcare services in each of the past 10 years, and the amount of public expenditure incurred for providing such services (set out in a table);

(3) of (i) the number of claimants who were prosecuted for offences allegedly committed by them in each of the past 10 years, and (ii) the amount of public expenditure incurred by the Department of Justice and the Judiciary in handling such cases (with a breakdown of the figures in (i) and (ii) by District Council district to which the place where the offence was committed belonged); and

(4) of the estimated expenditure in 2016-2017 for handling torture and non-refoulement claims?



     Since the commencement of the Unified Screening Mechanism (USM) in 2014, there has been an influx of persons lodging non-refoulement claims in Hong Kong. Their abuse of our screening system and the worsening crime situation have caused considerable public concerns over the social and public order issues brought about by the prolonged presence of a large and growing number of claimants in Hong Kong. Injecting further resources alone is unable to contain and reverse the situation; the Government needs to launch a comprehensive review of the strategy of handling non-refoulement claims in the following four dimensions: pre-arrival control, screening procedures, detention, and removal and enforcement, to effectively tackle the problem of illegal immigration and overstaying.    

     My reply to the various parts of Hon Quat's question is as follows.

(1) According to the Legal Aid Department's (LAD) record, from 2009-10 to 2015-16 (up to January 2016), the total legal costs for cases (with accounts finalised) where legal aid was granted to torture/non-refoulement claimants to apply for judicial reviews against the decisions made in relation to their claims are tabulated as follows:

Financial     Total legal
Year          cost incurred
              (Including costs
              paid to the Department
              of Justice
              (as book entry)) ($Million)
----------   ----------------------------
2009-10            0.27
2010-11            2.61
2011-12            0.23
2012-13            6.58
2013-14            7.68
2014-15            7.00
2015-16            11.28
(up to
January 2016)

     According to LAD, the files of some of the claim-related proceedings / cases concluded before 2009 have been disposed of in compliance with the established procedures. LAD do not maintain the complete statistics or records concerned.

     According to the Immigration Department (ImmD)'s record, since 2009, the total number of cases where leave is granted by the court to lodge judicial reviews against the decisions made in relation to their claims are tabulated below:

Year    No. of Cases
-----   ------------
2009        0
2010        1
2011        1
2012        15
2013        9
2014        42
2015        24

(2) According to the Hospital Authority (HA)'s record, the number of outpatient cases and inpatient attendances in public hospitals with fee waiver granted to claimants and the amount so waived between 2008 and 2015 are tabulated in Table 1.

     HA does not maintain the above statistics before 2008.

(3) The Judiciary does not maintain statistical breakdown on the public expenditure incurred in handling criminal cases. According to the Police's record, since 2013, the number of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants (NECIIs) (including Vietnamese) on recognisance (mostly non-refoulement claimants) arrested for criminal offences are tabulated in Table 2.

     The Police do not maintain the above breakdown statistics before 2013. According to records, between 2009 and 2012, the numbers of NECIIs on recognisance arrested for criminal offences are 473, 506, 476 and 493 respectively (these figures do not include Vietnamese). Nevertheless, during that period there were very few Vietnamese non-refoulement claimants.

     The Police do not maintain the crime figures by district.

     Separately, the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2009 (the Ordinance) came into effect in November 2009, adding a new section 38AA to the Ordinance to prohibit illegal immigrants and persons who are subject to removal or deportation orders from taking any employment or establishing/joining in any business.  According to ImmD's records, from the commencement of the Ordinance to end 2015, the number of NECIIs (including Vietnamese) on recognisance arrested for breach of section 38AA are tabulated below:

Year                  No. of persons
----                  --------------
2009                      36
(since November)
2010                      172
2011                      156
2012                      190
2013                      165
2014                      166
2015                      232

(4) In 2015-16, the estimated expenditure relating to the handling of non-refoulement claims amounts to $644 million, including $207 million for screening claims and processing appeals, $108 million for the provision of legal assistance, and $329 million for humanitarian assistance to cover claimants' basic needs whilst they are here. The estimated expenditure for 2016-17 will be reflected in the 2016-17 Estimates.

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:32


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