Influx of IIs nears record figures
THE number of illegal immigrants sneaking into the territory is heading towards a record high since the influx started in 1980.
Up to yesterday, 34,314 had been caught this year - more than the total for the whole of last year.
There were 33,703 illegal immigrants caught last year and 24,029 in 1991.
Police concede the number of people caught might only represent a small percentage of the total number who entered illegally.
Police records reveal a consistent influx of illegal immigrants on a monthly basis with no particular period suffering from a significantly heavier rate.
A police source said that the steady flow of illegal immigrants could indicate an unsuccessful border control.
''However, it is very hard to judge how many illegal immigrants slip in without being caught and we remain confident of being on top of the problem and will continue to use the necessary resources to deal with it,'' he said.
One notable change shown by records of routes used by illegal immigrants is that the majority of those arrested crossed the border at sea rather than on land.
In 1991, 14,066 arrested illegal immigrants crossed into Hong Kong by land, compared with 10,023 by sea.
Last year the pattern was reversed, 17,891 used the sea while 15,812 came overland.
And this pattern has continued in the first 11 months of this year, with only 12,373 illegal immigrants entering by land compared with the 21,003 who arrived by boat.
Police credit this with the impact of the Anti Smuggling Task Force whose operation had greatly increased marine surveillance.
The most significant number of arrests occurred in the northern New Territories, with 14,849 caught in the first 11 months of this year.