Senior police officers called for a crackdown on human smuggling syndicates, also known as snakeheads, which they blame for the increasing number of foreigners who enter Hong Kong illegally to seek asylum as refugees.
Andy Chan Tin-chu, superintendent of the Marine Police Regional Crime Unit, said investigations revealed that snakeheads have been spreading rumors in countries like Vietnam, India and Pakistan that they could work and earn money in Hong Kong if they applied for refugee status, Apple Daily reported.
These gang members even told their would-be victims that they should grab the opportunity quickly because Hong Kong was about to tighten its rules on the issuance of visas to refugees, Chan said.
Most of the non-Chinese asylum seekers are from South Asia.
They are first brought to mainland China where they stay for a few days before being transported to Hong Kong, Chan said, adding that each one has to pay between HK$5,000 and HK$50,000 to middlemen for their one-stop services.
Some of the illegal entrants even help snakeheads bring in more people from their countries while they are waiting for approval of their application under the non-refoulement principle, he said.
According to police data, at least 2,385 people were caught entering Hong Kong illegally last year, up 30 percent from 2014. Of the illegal entrants, about 70 percent were non-Chinese.
Alan Lau King-lun, superintendent of the Marine Police Regional Operation Unit, said snakeheads are now equipped with more powerful boats that carry their victims from the mainland to Hong Kong, making it more difficult and dangerous for marine police to chase them.
He said the most effective way to stop the influx of illegal immigrants is to strike at the source, namely the human smuggling syndicates.
Marine police have acquired 14 new speed boats to enhance their law enforcement operations, Lau added.
– Contact us at [email protected]