Stemming illegal flow

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 April, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 April, 1993, 12:00am

IT is one of the more costly and unavoidable drawbacks of having a booming economy on the edge of a vast developing nation that there will always be a need to guard the border against illegal immigrants searching for work. In times of economic upheaval in China, when growth and modernisation are being achieved at the expense of guaranteed employment for all, Hongkong beckons like an Eldorado, with streets paved in gold.

Every month thousands are prepared to risk arrest and imprisonment by crossing the border to seek jobs in Hongkong. An increasing number, put off by tight security along the intensively patrolled land border east of the Yuen Long Creek, with its sophisticated, electronically monitored fence and the closed area behind it, try their luck by coming across the water. Not surprisingly, the mud flats and narrow waters of the creek estuary have become increasingly popular in recent years. The gap in the barrierat the creek mouth itself and the relatively insecure fencing to the west of it make it more attractive to some than the stretch of open water further out into Deep Bay.

What is more remarkable is the time it has taken Security Branch to decide to do something about it. Officials admit the problem has been known for years, yet they are only now considering reinforcing the fence, making the estuary a closed area and finding a practical way of erecting a barrier across the water.

Given the limits on police and marine police manpower, the length and inaccessibility of much of the New Territories coastline and the fallibility of border technology, it will never be possible to seal the territory off completely. The truly determined will always find a way through.

However, there can be little excuse for further delay in reinforcing existing defences in an area where the need for vigilance has long been recognised. With the number caught in the territory expected to reach 4,000 a month, action must not be put off any longer.