Overstayers refused permits
Sixty mainland overstayers claiming right of abode were refused recognisance and urged to return to the mainland yesterday.
The group denied the 'walkabout permits' were the first batch of some 600 overstayers who had been asked to return for a second interview.
They were given appointment cards to return for a third time on March 30.
An Immigration Department spokesman said: 'We hope this will give the overstayers time to reflect on whether they should voluntarily return to the mainland.
'Recognisance is not a right. They are overstayers and they should leave Hong Kong.' But the department declined to explain the purpose of them returning once more on March 30.
'When they come back, we will have other things to deal with, but we can't discuss these for operational reasons,' the spokesman said.
Legal aid was granted last month to 18 overstayers who challenged the Director of Immigration's decision to remove them. The court challenge starts on March 22.
Lawyer Pam Baker, who represents the 18 test cases, has argued that the 600 overstayers who surrendered themselves are in the same position as the 18 who were arrested and granted self-recognisance.
Ms Baker said: 'Whatever they choose to call it, the effect [of the appointment slip] is the same as granting a recognisance.'