With pending applications from asylum seekers now standing at more than 10,000 and the number still rising, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has announced additional manpower to deal with the problem.
In his annual policy address Wednesday, Leung said he proposes to add two new posts in the government to help review strategies, over the next three years, on handling the increasing claims for non-refoulement protection in Hong Kong.
The new posts comprise one principal assistant secretary in the Security Bureau and one assistant director in the Immigration Department, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The officers will be responsible for reviewing the Immigration Ordinance, study ways to speed up examination processes of asylum-seeking applications, and look into the feasibility of setting up a camp as suggested by some groups.
Immigration Department data shows that as of end-November last year there were 10,755 pending applications for staying in Hong Kong and avoiding deportation on the grounds of torture, political asylum and inhuman treatment.
All the applications are now being handled by just 129 staff from the Immigration Department.
Ming Pao cited some officials as saying that three-year timeframe set by Leung for strategy review is too long. As the staff is overburdened, something needs to be done more quickly, they said.
Meanwhile, asked if the government will solve the problem by withdrawing from the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Leung said it could be done if necessary.
Amnesty International Hong Kong said it is shocked that such a thing is even being discussed.
Justice Centre Hong Kong, an organization that strives to protect the rights of migrants, refugees and other vulnerable people, also criticized any such proposal.
Walking away from the UN convention would make Hong Kong no different from totalitarian regimes like Zimbabwe and North Korea, it said.
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