Migrants 'are being deported before cases'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 12:00am

Immigration officers were accused yesterday of deporting right-of-abode litigants with pending court cases who tried to extend their stay.

Arrests which started on Monday and a refusal to renew recognisance documents after expiry would force abode-seekers into hiding, welfare groups said.

The Immigration Department confirmed yesterday that it had arranged to remove 61 abode-seekers who had reported to the department over the previous two days. A spokesman said those who were deported had no grounds for remaining in the SAR.

The spokesman said the 7,000 abode claimants were subject to removal unless they were involved in litigation and had been given an undertaking that their removal would be withheld pending the conclusion of their court case.

About 5,000 abode-seekers whose claims are represented by the case of Ng Siu-tung and Sin Hoi-chu have been given such an undertaking. But only 3,000 of them remain in Hong Kong.

The spokesman said the department would arrange to remove those who had not been given an undertaking or an interim court injunction and were not in a similar position to Ng and Sin which warranted case-by-case consideration.

It is understood that several hundred abode-seekers face removal as the criteria for concessions do not apply to them.

The department said 500 abode-claimants who arrived in the SAR without permission to stay had returned to the mainland since July.

The spokesman denied they were enforcing a new policy of early repatriation of abode-seekers who were waiting for their court cases to finish - a possibility officials raised after the arson at Immigration Tower on August 2 in which 50 people where injured, including two who later died.

A spokesman for the Right of Abode Committee, Fu Ka-wai, said: 'The move is in effect an early repatriation of those who still have legal proceedings going on. This is against the spirit of the law.'

Jackie Hung Ling-yu, project officer of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, said the 61 abode-seekers arranged to be removed included more than 10 who had court cases pending.

At least four were confirmed to be among the more than 3,000 cases represented by Edward Chan Man-hon.

Two are waiting for an oral hearing for an application of judicial review, while two more are waiting for the fixing of an appeal date for the rejection of the granting of leave for a judicial review.

Mr Chan wrote to the Department of Justice yesterday to demand a clarification on the repatriation policy.

'Clarification is needed as otherwise tension and confusion will be created,' he said. 'Some may dare not report to the Immigration Department [to renew their recognisance documents].'

Mr Chan said his 3,000 cases were similar to those who had been given an undertaking.

'The granting of the undertaking is so inconsistent and unfair,' he said.

Repatriation action would deprive abode-seekers of the chance to fight for their rights in the SAR, he added.