The Government today proposed amendments to the Immigration Ordinance with the goal of handling various issues relating to non-refoulement claims more effectively.
The Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2020, which aims to improve the screening procedures for non-refoulement claims and introduce enhanced measures in respect of law enforcement, removal and detention, was gazetted today.
The key amendment proposals include enhancing efficiency in screening by the Immigration Department (ImmD) and preventing delaying tactics and improving the procedures and functions of the Torture Claims Appeal Board (TCAB).
It also encompasses strengthening removal of unsuccessful claimants, enhancing detention and combating unlawful employment and empowering the Secretary for Security to make regulations for the implementation of the Advanced Passenger Information System.
The Security Bureau explained that the Government has been highly concerned with and is determined to address the problems arising from non-refoulement claims.
The bureau and ImmD have implemented various measures targeting the handling of claims at different stages, including reducing at source the number of illegal immigrants and overstayers, expediting the screening of claims and appeals, expediting repatriation after completion of screening and stepping up law enforcement against crimes such as unlawful employment.
The bureau noted that the ImmD basically cleared the backlog of outstanding claims in early 2019, which at one point reached over 11,000 cases.
The number of appeals pending handling by the TCAB has also been reduced from the peak of over 6,500 to about 1,700 as at end-October.
It is expected that the TCAB could complete the handling of these cases by mid-2021 the earliest.
The bureau said despite some concrete progress made by the Government in the handling of non-refoulement claims, there remains numerous challenges ahead.
It noted that there are still some 13,000 claimants or unsuccessful claimants currently remaining in Hong Kong due to various reasons, including the majority of claimants who applied for leave to apply for judicial review after their claims or appeals were rejected by the ImmD and the TCAB.
The proposals will be tabled at the Legislative Council for the first and second readings on December 16.