26 October 2016
The asylum seekers, equipped with life jackets, raise their hands upon seeing Hong Kong police coming at them. Photo: HK Police
The asylum seekers, equipped with life jackets, raise their hands upon seeing Hong Kong police coming at them. Photo: HK Police

Asylum seekers sail into HK by themselves as snakeheads cop out

Hong Kong marine police arrested 25 asylum seekers of South Asian origin aboard a motorized boat in the waters off Chek Lap Kok airport on Wednesday morning.

But the fact that the illegal migrants crossed the border by themselves shows that mainland snakeheads, as those who engage in human smuggling activities are called, are now more wary of getting caught after the government imposed new and harsher penalties against unauthorized entries into the territory.

The group included 23 men and two women from Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh with ages ranging from 16 to 49, Sing Tao Daily reports.

Police said the group apparently wanted to seek political asylum in the city by claiming to be refugees from their countries of origin.

Many of them wore decent clothes and one was even wearing a gold watch, the report said.

What the authorities found unusual was that the illegal entrants operated the boat by themselves to reach Hong Kong.

Normally, illegal migrants were found to be accompanied by one or two members of the human smuggling syndicate, police said.

But this time, the group operated the boat by themselves, and police found life jackets, water and food aboard.

Also, police suspected that the group had been given specific instructions by snakeheads before they embarked on the less-than-10-minute trip from the mainland because all of them raised their hands and had smiles on their faces when they saw the police coming at them.

Apple Daily says such self-reliance displayed by the asylum seekers meant the government’s new regulations against illegal immigration must have scared off the snakeheads.

The government on Friday announced amendments to the Immigration Order on illegal entrants with the aim of deterring the snakeheads’ lucrative human smuggling activities.

Under the new regulations, those found to have arranged or assisted in the unauthorized entry of people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia or Sri Lanka into Hong Kong are liable to a prison term of up to 14 years and a fine of up to HK$5 million, compared with the previous penalties of three to seven years in jail and a fine of up to HK$600,000.

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