For information
on 18 September 1997

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Meeting on 18 September 1997

Vietnamese Refugees (VRs)/Vietnamese Migrants (VMs)/
Vietnamese Illegal Immigrants (VIIs)

Comprehensive Policy Review

Members of the Security Panel are aware that the Administration is currently conducting a comprehensive review on various aspects of the policy on VRs, VMs and VIIs.

2. As the scope of the review covers a fairly wide range of issues including the port of first asylum policy, Part IIIA of the Immigration Ordinance, the problem of the UNHCR debt and the future of the Pillar Point Vietnamese Refugee Centre, it is anticipated that it would take some time before the review could be completed. The proposed way forward may also have to be revised or modified in the light of developments and negotiations with concerned parties before a decision can be made. No firm timetable for the completion of the review can therefore be given, but the Administration will try its best to complete the job as soon as possible.

3. It should be noted that the current review covers a number of sensitive and complicated issues, and that difficult and sensitive negotiations with outside parties would have to be undertaken before satisfactory solutions could be worked out. Any premature disclosure of the Administration's position could seriously jeopardise the outcome of the talks.

4. The Administration undertakes, nonetheless, to revert to the Panel on Security periodically on progress made with regard to the review and on any major change of policy on the VR/VM/VII issue.

Measures in tackling the problem of VIIs entering Hong Kong

5. As at 8.9.97, 1 483 Vietnamese illegal immigrants (VIIs) have arrived in Hong Kong since the beginning of the year, as compared to 1 038 for the whole of 1996. These VIIs have not come here to seek asylum, but to look for illegal employment and make money.

6. The Government is very concerned with this rising trend of illegal immigration from Vietnam. However, we believe that for so long as there are good economic opportunities in Hong Kong, VIIs will continue to be attracted here. We consider that the problem should be tackled by stemming the flow of VIIs to Hong Kong, stepping up interception and taking other deterrent measures locally, and expediting their repatriation to Vietnam.

7. In terms of stemming the flow of VIIs, we have asked the Vietnamese Government to redouble their efforts in tightening their control of illegal departures. We have also requested, through the border liaison channel, the Mainland authorities to step up their efforts in border control, and to assist us by arresting and repatriating VIIs transiting through Mainland China.

8. In addition, the Police have stepped up efforts in intercepting VIIs. They have increased their frequency of operations on illegal employment blackspots such as construction sites in Chek Lap Kok Airport. Prosecution action will continue to be instituted against employers of illegal immigrants. The maximum penalty for hiring illegal immigrants has also been raised in 1996 to a fine of $350,000 and 3 years imprisonment. Since 1995, 4 800 employers have been investigated and 1 980 of them prosecuted.

9. As regards expediting the repatriation of VIIs, we would continue to press the Vietnamese Government to expedite the clearance process, which at the moment takes about 4 to 6 months after a VII is detained. We would explore alternative repatriation arrangements with Vietnam so as to simplify and expedite the whole process.

Repatriation of Illegal Immigrants from Mainland China

10. The arrangements with Mainland China regarding the repatriation of Mainland illegal immigrants (MIIs) have been in place for a long time. It can be traced back to November 1974 when IIs arrested in the border area were detained and processed at the Ta Ku Ling Police Station before repatriation. Due to the increase in the number of IIs intercepted, San Uk Ling Holding Centre (SULHC) was established for these purposes in July 1979. With the commencement of the Operation Champion on 23 October 1980, the 'touch-base' policy was discontinued and MIIs arrested in the urban areas were also repatriated.

11. At present, MIIs arrested throughout the territory are sent to the SULHC for examination and repatriation. They will be examined under S.4(1)(a) of the Immigration Ordinance and will be granted or refused permission to land under S.11(1) of the same Ordinance.

12. Unless there are exceptional humanitarian or compassionate grounds, MIIs who have been refused permission to land will be repatriated within 24 hours.

13. A daily repatriation list containing bio-data of the MIIs to be repatriated on that day is compiled and forwarded to the Mainland authorities before 1200 hours each day.

14. The police will provide transport and escort for the repatriation. The identity of each MII will be confirmed before boarding the police vehicle for repatriation. A senior immigration officer will head the repatriation convoy across the border at Man Kam To and hand over the MIIs to the Mainland officials at 1500 hours daily.

Security Bureau
Government Secretariat
9 September 1997

Last Updated on 24 October 1997