Police intercepted another boatload of South Asian illegal immigrants yesterday, the second in 48 hours, and officials expect more will come in the next few weeks as the government strives to amend a law to stop asylum seekers from working in the city.
Eleven men - two Indians, eight Pakistanis and a mainland pilot - were on an eight-metre wooden boat without lights or safety gear when arrested off Black Point Power Station, Tuen Mun - the same area where police caught another boatload two weeks ago.
Marine police Senior Inspector Yip Kwong-choi said syndicates reaped big profits from people-smuggling and had no regard for the safety of their human cargo. The 10 men had each paid 5,000 yuan (HK$5,685) for a seat on the boat, designed to carry only four passengers. They were not given life jackets.
Yip said the boats being used by people-smugglers were getting smaller and older. 'The boat we stopped two days ago was 12 metres long. The one we caught this time was only eight metres. The smugglers are trying to cut costs, as their boats will be forfeited upon interception.'
Marine police stopped a boatload of eight Pakistanis off Shek Ngau Chau, Tai Po, on Saturday morning, and a few illegal immigrants were caught on land elsewhere.
Yip said the mainland pilot in yesterday's case would be charged with endangering the safety of others at sea. His passengers said they wanted to seek asylum.
The number of illegal immigrants has soared since the Court of First Instance ruled in March that asylum seekers did not break the law if they worked while waiting for a ruling on their status. Police said that since then, mainland and South Asian syndicates had been spreading rumours that asylum seekers could now work in Hong Kong.
The Security Bureau has been working on amending the law and hopes to table the bill for its third reading in the Legislative Council next month to stop asylum seekers working or setting up or joining a business in Hong Kong.
Yip said police would improve their intelligence links with the mainland, and the two jurisdictions would launch a joint operation in the next few weeks against people-smuggling.
Police said syndicates always changed their routes and urged the public to report suspicious activities.
A rocky road
A total of 964 illegal immigrants were arrested last year
The number arrested so far this year: 1,064