Hong Kong and Guangdong continue vigorous efforts against smuggling of illegal immigrants across boundary on all fronts

Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      The Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, together with the Border Control Department of the Ministry of Public Security and the law enforcement agencies of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan, convened the fifth joint working group meeting on combating the smuggling of illegal immigrants across the Hong Kong-Guangdong boundary in Shenzhen today (December 7). At the meeting, both sides reviewed the results of efforts against the smuggling of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants (NECIIs) into Hong Kong in the past few months. They agreed to continue their vigorous efforts against the smuggling of illegal immigrants across the boundary and to tackle the problem on all fronts.

     At the meeting both sides agreed to continue collaborative efforts with stepped-up actions including interception at source, investigation, intelligence exchange and law enforcement, with a view to cracking down on human-smuggling syndicates and criminal activities involving the entry of NECIIs into Hong Kong through the Mainland.

     The fifth meeting was co-chaired by Mr Lee and theDirector General of the Border Control Department of the Ministry of Public Security, Mr Chen Dingwu, today.

Initial results of joint operations against the smuggling of illegal immigrants into Hong Kong in the past few months were reported at the meeting, and further strategies to be deployed in the next phase were discussed.

     Mr Lee expressed his gratitude to the Ministry of Public Security for supporting the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and various border control departments of Mainland law enforcement agencies in the special operations against NECIIs. Mr Lee said that since the commencement of the special operations in February 2016, the border control departments and the exit and entry offices of relevant provinces took sustained enforcement action against illegal immigration activities in various Mainland provinces, leading to the interception of over 67 000 NECIIs. They also foiled 53 organised syndicates and 293 cases of attempted illegal entry into Hong Kong, involving over 3 400 persons.

     In the same period, the Hong Kong Police Force and the Immigration Department conducted seven joint operations with Mainland law enforcement agencies and successfully smashed a number of cross-boundary crime syndicates, resulting in the arrest of over 120 core members of smuggling syndicates in both places.

     Meanwhile, the number of NECIIs intercepted in Hong Kong also showed a declining trend.

In the first 11 months of this year, a total of 837 NECIIs were intercepted or identified in Hong Kong (monthly average of 76), a drop of almost 60 per cent compared with 2016 (monthly average of 185) and a drop of three quarters from the peak in 2015 (monthly average of 318). The operations achieved remarkable results.

     Updating Mainland counterparts on Hong Kong’s efforts against smuggling illegal immigrants, Mr Lee said that since the vast majority of illegal immigrants entering Hong Kong were arranged by crime syndicates, the HKSAR Government introduced the Immigration (Unauthorised Entrants) (Amendment) Order 2016 on May 20, 2016, which substantially increased the penalties for arranging or assisting in the smuggling of NECIIs from eight major source countries including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh into Hong Kong to a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment and a fine of $5 million. Since the Order came into effect, the courts in the HKSAR have already heard a few such cases. Hong Kong's law enforcement agencies also successfully applied for heavier penalties under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance.

Among all cases tried so far, the heaviest penalty imposed by the court was imprisonment for five years and three months, which reflected the seriousness of the case.

     Separately, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved a funding of about $190 million for the implementation of Marine Situational Awareness System. The new system will allow the sharing of real-time images, footage and other important information among police on vessels and at command centres on land, thereby helping to detect the smuggling of illegal immigrants by sea and other maritime crimes effectively as well as safeguarding maritime safety.

     At the meeting, Mr Lee suggested to the Mainland public security authorities that the Mainland side should continue to take stringent actions against syndicates arranging the entry of NECIIs into Hong Kong and step up patrols and enforcement at boundary control points and at sea. The meeting also discussed the ways to enhance co-operations in investigations and other areas.

     Mr Lee said the HKSAR Government noted that syndicates arranging entry of NECIIs into Hong Kong would change tactics from time to time, in routes to Hong Kong and in modes of operation, in response to the enforcement operations.

Consequently, the HKSAR Government and Mainland law enforcement agencies will continue to work closely together, with vigorous actions against illegal immigration activities on land and at sea, as well as cracking down on syndicates, which is a key linchpin of the strategy for curbing and handling non-refoulement claims.

Published on: 2017-12-07

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