THE Immigration Tribunal wields ''draconian'' powers and should be overhauled to make it more open and accountable, the deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, James To Kun-sun, said yesterday. ''The Immigration Ordinance is subjective and open to interpretation and needs to be completely overhauled to make the tribunal more transparent,'' he said. At the moment the tribunal has the power to dismiss a case or refuse an application to stay in Hong Kong without a hearing. Mr To added: ''The powers and procedures of the tribunal are draconian. The ordinance is not doing the people justice and the whole system is in need of an urgent up-date.'' The criticism comes as the tribunal is about to consider for the third time whether or not two young girls were born in Hong Kong and therefore have the right to remain here. The High Court has twice found procedural improprieties with the tribunal and quashed its findings. But the tribunal's c hief adjudicator, Eric Barnes, said he was happy with the way the tribunal was operating. ''The tribunal is an independent body with hearings held in private, and so to make it open the law would have to be changed. ''Also, the lay people who sit on the tribunal do not frame their decisions in legal terminology and so when lawyers apply for an order to review they point to ambiguities to get another hearing. ''The fact that a case is sent back to the tribunal for a second or third hearing is not an indication that it is not working properly.'' But Daniel Wong Kwok-tung, chief secretary of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, claimed the tribunal needed to be made more accountable. Mr Wong said: ''We have great reservations about how applications to stay in Hong Kong are treated by the tribunal. ''We feel that people should be entitled to a full and proper explanation of the tribunal's decision and that they have the right to know what criteria have been used to judge their case.'' But Mr To stressed that the immigration process was a delicate matter and should not be over-simplified. ''A sovereign nation's right to refuse entry to an alien must be upheld but we should always have a humane approach to immigration and be careful not to reject a person without good reason,'' he said. The tribunal has received 199 applications from people wanting to stay in Hong Kong this year, with about 90 per cent of the applicants coming from China. So far 141 applications have been refused, while only 13 have been allowed. Four cases have been abandoned, one was withdrawn by the Immigration Department, another was beyond the jurisdiction of the tribunal and 39 cases are pending. Mr Barnes said: ''Anyone who is wholly or partly Chinese, or who has been resident in Hong Kong for at least seven years will be granted a hearing. ''I have no way of knowing if the tribunal has refused abode to someone who should have been allowed to stay but I am satisfied that the tribunal is doing its job properly.''