Hundreds of Immigration Department staff could be made available to ease the workload of other sections in the department when part of the British-related work is moved to the British Trade Commission in November, it emerged yesterday. Director of Immigration Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee met the staff unions to discuss their concerns. Wong Shiu-wing, chairman of the Immigration Service Officers Association, said after meeting Ms Ip that the transfers could begin next month. The transfers would affect staff working in the naturalisation and identity certificate sections, Mr Wong said. These matters will be dealt with by the British Consulate after the handover and by the British Trade Commission in the interim. 'A few hundred staff will be released from these sections, and they could help to ease the manpower shortage,' Mr Wong quoted Ms Ip as saying. 'Up till now, the department owes 190,000 overtime hours to staff,' he said. Mr Wong added that Mrs Ip said the department would also increase the number of middle-ranking management staff, such as immigration officers, to cope with the increasing workload. This would increase prospects of promotion for assistant immigration officers, whose rank was planned to have been phased out by future staff promotions.