The Legislative Council’s panel on security is set to discuss on April 12 new measures to strengthen the government’s efforts to deal with the increasing number of fake asylum seekers, Apple Daily reported Wednesday.
One of the measures, which will be presented by the Security Bureau, will be a prescreening mechanism on top of the existing Unified Screening Mechanism (USM) implemented in March 2014 to determine claims for non-refoulement protection against expulsion, return or extradition from Hong Kong to another country.
With the assistance of airline companies, the bureau plans to require visitors from the countries where the most applicants for such protection come from to obtain online approval before they board planes to Hong Kong, the report quoted an unnamed source as saying.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Tuesday the refugee problem has been extremely troubling for Hong Kong and the government is seeking solutions that can bring a positive effect in the short term.
He dismissed a suggestion by lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party, who said setting up a detention camp on the outlying islands could effectively deter fake refugees.
Immigration Department figures show 11,094 pending applications from asylum seekers at the end of last month, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Among the applicants, 22 percent were from Vietnam, followed by 19 percent from India, 18 percent from Pakistan, 10 percent from Bangladesh and 10 percent from Indonesia.
It has been found that one in five applicants did not file their claims for non-refoulement protection until one year after their entry, whether legal or not.
Panel member James To Kun-sun said he doubts the proposed new mechanism can be implemented, as it involves diplomatic issues that require Beijing’s approval.
A source quoted by Apple Daily said the Security Bureau will also propose to the panel a revised version of the Immigration (Unauthorized Entrants) Order to treat all illegal entrants as unauthorized entrants instead of only those from mainland China, Macau and Vietnam as currently provided.
As a result, the penalty for human smuggling syndicates, also known as snakeheads, which are to blame for the increasing number of foreigners who enter Hong Kong illegally to seek asylum as refugees, will be increased.
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