16 IIs found in squalid 300 sqft flat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 December, 2004, 12:00am

They are among 69 caught in a crackdown on illegal workers

Sixteen suspected illegal workers have been found living in a filthy 300sqft flat for which they paid $20 each a day, according to the Immigration Department.

The workers - 13 men and three women - were required to sleep in two home-made bunk beds, officials said after a raid on the fifth-floor flat in Cheung Sha Street, Cheung Sha Wan.

The 13 men were understood to have been sleeping in one of the two bunk beds, which was about 1.8 metres wide and 6 metres long, while the women slept in the other, which was 2.4 metres long.

Clothes were seen hanging from the beds and windows of the unit, which was equipped with a television and other household items. Bags of clothes were found on the floor of the apartment, which had a tiny kitchen and two toilets.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said the 16 mainlanders were suspected to have been employed illegally on construction sites because safety helmets and plastic boots were found inside the flat.

They were seen leaving the flat early in the morning and returning at night, according to a neighbour.

It is understood the Immigration Department is trying to find the flat's owner. Last night, immigration officers were still investigating whether the mainlanders' employer had arranged for them to come to work in Hong Kong and offered the makeshift accommodation.

The 16 were among 69 suspected illegal workers and a local employer arrested yesterday as part of a two-day operation against illegal employment. The operation, codenamed Breakthrough, started at 5.30am yesterday and will end today.

More than 110 immigration officers raided 18 places, including shops, flats and a factory. Officers seized nine second-generation Hong Kong identity cards, which were thought to have been forged.

Most of the suspected illegal workers - 47 men and 22 women - came from Guangdong. Last night, all the suspects were being held for questioning and no charges had been laid.

The Immigration Department warned it was an offence to employ people who were not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is a $350,000 fine and three years' imprisonment.

The spokeswoman said that under a recent court guideline, employers would be jailed for at least three months if found guilty.

In the first 10 months of the year, 1,143 employers were arrested for employing illegal workers, compared with 1,078 for all of last year.