Snakeheads driving sharp rise in fake asylum seekers

January 25, 2016 12:56
Refugees are shown in decrepit quarters in the New Territories. Many have been enticed by snakeheads to come to Hong Kong with promises of jobs and housing. Photo: Vision First

Middlemen are enticing people from South Asia and Southeast Asia to come to Hong Kong as refugees with promises of housing and jobs.

They are mainly responsible for a sharp increase in fake asylum seekers, Ming Pao Daily reports, citing rights group Christian Action.

Jeffrey Andrews, a Hong Kong-born ethnic Indian who has been helping refugees through the organization, quoted some applicants as saying they came to Hong Kong after being promised jobs and a place to stay by agents.

But after collecting their fee, the agents would disappear, he said.

Andrews said the number of refugees who have been tricked into such schemes is rising.

As many as 10,000 asylum seekers have pending applications, some fighting or awaiting deportation, government data shows.

They are claiming torture and political persecution in their home countries.  

Three or four fake asylum seekers have surfaced each week in the past two years, up from one every two to three months in 2009, Christian Action said.

They are mainly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam, each paying up to HK$100,000 (US$12,825) to middlemen.

They are first brought to mainland China where they stay for a few days before being transported to Hong Kong.

Many have ended up with none of the promised jobs or accommodation and have been turning to social workers to help them find their agents.

Andrews said some of the victims are working illegally in Hong Kong.

Fifteen have asked to be sent back to their home countries but are stuck in a long and complicated deportation process, he said.

Simon Young, an associate law dean in the University of Hon Kong, blamed the logjam on a defective application review system.

He said the government should hire more workers and provide further training to existing staff.

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