Immigration Department cracks down on illegal food delivery couriers in Operation ‘Lightshadow’

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10th July 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Immigration Department (ImmD) has launched a comprehensive operation named “Lightshadow” to tackle the issue of illegal food delivery couriers. The operation, spanning three consecutive days from 8th July to 10th July, aimed to combat the employment of unauthorized workers in the food delivery industry. As a result, a total of eight suspected illegal workers and three suspected aiders and abettors were apprehended.

During the operation, ImmD Task Force officers conducted identity checks on 93 food delivery couriers. Among them, eight individuals were identified as suspected illegal workers, all of whom were non-ethnic Chinese males aged between 20 and 45. These individuals were found to possess recognizance forms and were non-refoulement claimants, making their employment in Hong Kong prohibited. Additionally, three of the detained individuals were suspected of illegally using electric mobility devices. The relevant cases will be handed over to the Hong Kong Police Force for further investigation.

Furthermore, three Hong Kong residents, aged between 19 and 45, were arrested under suspicion of conspiring to defraud delivery platforms by selling or renting their food delivery courier accounts to illegal workers.

An ImmD spokesperson emphasized that contravening the conditions of stay and engaging in unauthorized employment are serious offences. Visitors are strictly prohibited from working in Hong Kong without the Director of Immigration’s permission, whether paid or unpaid. Offenders may face prosecution and, upon conviction, be subjected to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution and penalties.

The spokesperson further highlighted that section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance prohibits illegal immigrants, individuals subject to removal or deportation orders, overstayers, and those refused permission to land from engaging in any form of employment or business. Violators of this provision can face a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Employers were also warned about the consequences of hiring individuals who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty for employing such individuals, including illegal immigrants, those subject to removal or deportation orders, overstayers, or those refused permission to land, has been significantly increased to a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years. The individuals responsible for employing illegal workers, such as directors, managers, secretaries, or partners, may also face criminal liability. The High Court has established sentencing guidelines that mandate immediate custodial sentences for employers found guilty of employing illegal workers.

According to court sentencing guidelines, employers have a duty to take all practicable steps to verify the lawful employability of prospective employees. This includes inspecting their identity cards and making thorough inquiries to ensure their eligibility. Failure to comply with these requirements will not be accepted as a defence. Additionally, employers must inspect the valid travel documents of job seekers who do not possess a Hong Kong permanent identity card. Any violation of these obligations may result in a maximum fine of $150,000 and imprisonment for one year.

The ImmD emphasises its commitment to combating offences related to illegal employment. As part of its standard procedure, the department conducts screenings to identify vulnerable individuals, including illegal workers, illegal immigrants, sex workers, and foreign domestic helpers, with a focus on potential trafficking in persons (TIP) cases. Identified TIP victims receive comprehensive support and assistance, including urgent intervention, medical services, counselling, shelter or temporary accommodation, and other necessary services. The ImmD encourages TIP victims to report crimes to the relevant authorities promptly.

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