Overstaying mainlanders would be repatriated even if a judge ruled they could stay, a senior official said yesterday. The Government was confident it would win the judicial review which 18 overstayers had applied for, said Acting Secretary for Security Raymond Wong Hing-chiu. 'We believe the Court of First Instance will deal with the issue in a reasonable manner,' Mr Wong said. 'The Court of Final Appeal judgment said applications for the right of abode have to be made on the mainland. This will be the proper way to apply even if [the overstayers] have the right of abode.' He said the Immigration Department would deport overstayers at the end of the court case, which starts on March 22. 'At the moment, we have not repatriated these overstayers out of respect for the spirit of the rule of law.' The 18 have been granted legal aid to challenge the Government's insistence they return to the mainland and obtain a Certificate of Entitlement before claiming their right of abode. Lawyer Pam Baker, who is representing the 18, said whether the mainlanders could be deported was open to question. 'The Court of Final Appeal judgment says they have to stay on the mainland to apply for the certificate. It doesn't say they have to go back to apply,' she said. Ms Baker said the Government did not seem to have learned from experience. 'It's awfully silly. I think [Mr Wong] hasn't got his facts right,' she said. Mr Wong said there would be no amnesty. Mainlanders would not be allowed to jump the queue by arriving in Hong Kong and then overstaying to apply for the certificates here. A scheme to let overstayers register and apply for 'walkabout' permits was to avoid them being detained pending the court case, Mr Wong said. More than 120 overstayers hoping to apply for walkabout permits queued at Immigration Tower early yesterday.