Abode cases to surge over next two years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 12:00am

Immigration officers are preparing to speed up procedures to cope with an anticipated 3,000 new right-of-abode litigation cases between 2001 and 2003, the Policy Address revealed.

A Security Bureau spokesman said that 3,000 judicial review cases was a very rough estimate of the number that might be initiated by abode claimants over the next three years.

He said the Immigration Department would 'handle expeditiously' the anticipated upsurge and that the initiative demonstrated the Government's commitment to an early resolution of the abode issue within the legal and judicial framework.

'Whether there will be so many cases remains unknown. We will keep developments in view,' he said.

'We hope that the actual number of disputes will be much fewer when the main legal issues have been clarified and ruled upon by the courts.'

The spokesman said, however, that it would be prudent for the Immigration Department and the Department of Justice to be prepared for litigation in the future.

The policy initiative did not spell out how authorities would speed up clearance of the abode-seekers.

Government officials have been hinting at the early repatriation of some abode-seekers if legal battles for the right to stay drag on.

Preliminary studies on a contingency plan are under way.

Officials hoped the right-of-abode cases, involving more than 5,000 people, could finish next year. There are new cases involving another 4,000 people claiming right of abode, most of whom arrived on two-way permits or sneaked in illegally. These are said to be more simple cases and can be handled quickly.

An Immigration Department spokesman has declined to confirm a report that it was speeding up repatriation by sending 50 people back each day, nearly 10 times the daily average, over the past 10 weeks, when a total of 400 mainlanders were sent back.

The former High Court's Chief Judge Patrick Chan Siu-oi also said in August that there was a need to speed up the right-of-abode cases as actions were being filed in court almost every day.