Hong Kong cracks down on illegal immigrants

Tightening the noose around 6,400 illegal immigrants living on its soil, a majority of them from Pakistan and India, the Hong Kong government has put in place a law that will enable the authorities to prosecute illegal immigrants who take up jobs during their stay in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Hong Kong Immigration Department's assistant director Corrado Chow on Monday said the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance, 2009, which came into force on November 14, 2009, had clearly spelt out that "a person, who having landed in Hong Kong unlawfully, or in respect of whom a removal order or a deportation order is in force, must not take any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establish or join in any business".

Under the amended law, anybody found in violation of these provisions can be punished with a fine of $6,410 and imprisonment for upto three years.

Since the new law came into force, the Hong Kong government has convicted 40 persons with 12-15 months' imprisonment and another 23 with 6-12 months' imprisonment.

Before this ordinance came into force, the Hong Kong government was not able to deport illegal immigrants even after their conviction as they had taken up jobs. Under the earlier laws, taking up employment or establishing or joining in a business was not specified as an offence.

"Through this ordinance, we have plugged a loophole in our law," Chow said. The Hong Kong government is hoping that the new law will deter those who intend to smuggle illegal immigrants into Hong Kong.

Of the 6,400 foreign nationals living in Hong Kong as illegal immigrants, 75 per cent come from South Asia most of them from Pakistan, followed by India.

While Indian nationals are allowed to visit Hong Kong visa-free for a trip of not more than 14 days, those wanting to stay for more than 14 days need to obtain a prior visa.

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