32 IIs caught on 7 boats in separate operations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 October, 2009, 12:00am

Thirty-two illegal immigrants, including crab-catchers and asylum seekers, were arrested in three incidents yesterday after crossing from the mainland in seven boats.

The arrests followed revelations in last week's Sunday Morning Post that illegal immigrants were using the small fishing village near Tin Shui Wai in the New Territories as a conduit to cross between Hong Kong and the mainland.

The first arrests were made when marine police intercepted four boats travelling across Deep Bay near Shenzhen to Lau Fau Shan between 1.40am and 3am.

Officers arrested 10 mainland poachers, eight men and two women, on board four six-metre-long fibreglass boats.

'Each boat carried two or three persons. Nets and cages were found on board the boats,' superintendent John Cameron, head of the marine police small boat unit, said.

'The investigation showed that they came across to catch crabs near the shoreline along Lau Fau Shan and Sheung Pak Nai.'

Cameron said it was the first time the small boat division had made such an arrest this year. Police said that the 10 mainlanders, aged between 16 and 58, would be repatriated to the mainland.

A police spokesman said the poachers had come across in the early hours of the morning to set up nets and cages to trap crabs along the western coastal area of Hong Kong, with the intention of returning to the mainland before dawn.

They would then have come back again to harvest their catch and return with it to the mainland, the officer said.

In the second operation, police arrested 15 male asylum seekers after two speedboats sneaked into Hong Kong from the mainland and left them on Shek Ngau Chau in northeast Hong Kong waters and Tuen Mun before dawn.

Nine of the men, who were Pakistanis, were initially found by a marine police launch on Shek Ngau Chau at about 5.26am.

They claimed they had paid 1,100 yuan (HK$1,248) to be taken from Shenzhen to Hong Kong and had come to apply for political asylum, according to police.

'They told us that they went ashore at about 4.30am,' a police spokeswoman said.

The other six asylum seekers were arrested in Tuen Mun after they were found on Lung Kwu Tan Road before 6am. The group of six men aged between 22 and 43 comprised four Pakistanis, one Nepali and one Indian.

They told police that they had just arrived from Shenzhen by boat.

At about 8am, a third boatload carrying seven mainlanders was spotted off Lau Fau Shan.

Marine police craft were deployed to intercept it and during the sea chase, the boat carrying the mainlanders ran ashore near Sha Kiu Tsuen. Two men and five women, aged between 18 and 47, jumped out of boat and tried to escape but were caught and arrested.

Police said the mainlanders came to seek illegal employment.

Police said they had noticed a rise in the number of non-Chinese illegal immigrants, mostly South Asians, being arrested in Hong Kong since the Court of First Instance ruled in March that asylum seekers were not breaking the law when taking work.

Cameron also confirmed police had stepped up enforcement action in Hong Kong waters to stop illegal immigrants entering Hong Kong.