Asylum seekers still held despite ruling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2008, 12:00am

The government will continue to detain about 400 asylum seekers whose removal is pending, three days after a court ruled the detentions were unlawful due to a lack of a clear policy.

A Security Bureau spokesman said last night the government would continue to exercise the power to detain people pending removal, including torture claimants, in accordance with the relevant provisions in the Immigration Ordinance.

'We note that the Court of Appeal judgment [on Friday] does not rule that the government has no power to detain a torture claimant pending his or her removal under the Immigration Ordinance,' he said.

The bureau took note of the Court of Appeal's observation that under Article 5 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, detention must not be arbitrary and the grounds and procedures for detention must be sufficiently certain and accessible. 'We will study the judgment carefully and decide later whether to make an appeal,' he said.

'In the meantime, the Immigration Department has implemented, with immediate effect, additional measures to ensure accessibility of the detention policy to the detainees as a group and individually.'

These included making the detention policy known through the posting of notices in detention facilities, and explaining to detainees the reasons for their detention and the procedures for seeking recognisance - as has already been granted to the four applicants in the court case.

The four unidentified claimants from Algeria, Sri Lanka and West Africa were ordered to leave Hong Kong in 2005 and 2006. The court refused a government request to delay the effect of its ruling until a petition to the Court of Final Appeal.

The judges, in their ruling, said: 'The existence of a clear and lawful policy ensures that the director [of immigration], when making his decision whether or not to detain, would have had all the relevant circumstances under consideration, and that the decision to detain would not be arbitrary. [That] would enable an applicant to know how best to ensure he is not detained.'