Immigration (Unauthorized Entrants) (Amendment) Order 2016 commences

     The Immigration (Unauthorized Entrants) (Amendment) Order 2016 (the Amendment Order) has been published in the Gazette today (May 20) and commenced on the same date.

     The Amendment Order declares persons resident or formerly resident in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia or Sri Lanka as "unauthorized entrants" (UEs). Persons/syndicates who arrange or assist the passage of UEs to or their remaining in Hong Kong are punishable under Part VIIA of the Immigration Ordinance, Cap. 115. Depending on case circumstances, offenders are liable to up to 14 years of imprisonment and a $5 million fine.

     A government spokesman said, "The situation of illegal immigration is acute and worsening. Non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants (NECIIs) now make up more than half of the non-refoulement claimants stranded in Hong Kong. Tough enforcement action against NECIIs is a key linchpin in our strategy in containing the number of claimants. Whilst our law enforcement agencies are already stepping up their enforcement actions, they cannot achieve the desired deterrent effect against the lucrative smuggling syndicates unless the Order is amended in tandem to provide for the application of strengthened enforcement powers and more stringent penalties against the smuggling of NECIIs from countries other than Vietnam into Hong Kong. By commencing the Amendment Order early and stepping up enforcement at the same time, the Government aims to achieve a sufficient deterrent effect against human smuggling syndicates.

     "That said, being a UE in itself is not an offence under Part VIIA, though the NECII may be liable for other applicable offences, subject to the availability of evidence. If a non-refoulement claim is made by a UE in Hong Kong, it will be screened in the same manner as those made by other NECIIs who are not UEs."

     Part VIIA of the Ordinance provides for a number of stringent penalties and strengthened enforcement powers against the smuggling of certain classes of illegal immigrants declared under that Part as UEs. Section 37B of Part VIIA of the Ordinance empowers the Chief Executive in Council to declare by order any class or description of persons who do not enjoy the right of abode or the right to land under section 2AAA of the Ordinance as UEs.

     The Amendment Order will be tabled at the Legislative Council for negative vetting on May 25, 2016.

Ends/Friday, May 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:44