A sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers has prompted Hong Kong government to raise the issue with Indian government and to consider measures to stop the entry of illegal immigrants.
According to government figures available in Hong Kong, most of the 10,450 pending asylum claimants originate from South or Southeast Asian countries, with Indians accounting for about 20 per cent, followed by Vietnamese (20 per cent), Pakistanis (18 per cent), Bangladeshis (12 per cent), and Indonesians (10 per cent).
Hong Kong immigration records revealed that 46 per cent of claimants were smuggled in, while 47 per cent entered as visitors but overstayed. The remaining 7 per cent were mostly those who lodged a non-refoulement claim on the spot after being refused permission to land upon arrival.
Industry sources in Hong Kong said the government was considering various options to stop “asylum visa”. The UN non-refoulement rules forbid expulsion of a person into a jurisdiction, usually his or her home-country, where that person might be again subjected to persecution.
While the Hong Kong government is not calling for a change in visa-on-arrival, there could be an online “pre-arrival registration” in the home country before departure. This essentially means a traveller will have to apply to the Hong Kong government for approval before arrival.
“Genuine travellers are suffering due to bogus asylum seekers. Earlier, the number of such people was virtually nil. But it has shot up to over 2,000 in the last one-and-half years. Indian government should not allow such people to travel,” said M Arunachalam, former President, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong.
Number of asylum claimants from India had risen from 10 a month in 2013 to 134 in 2014.
“When an illegal immigrant is detained, it will take almost two years to complete the process of verification and deport them. They would have made close to Rs 10-20 lakh as the government provides humanitarian assistance while they are stranded in Hong Kong to prevent them from falling destitute,” Arunachalam said.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security, Lai Tung-kwok, told the Legislative Council, “The government is concerned with recent reports that some agencies in India are suspected to be arranging Indian nationals to come to Hong Kong under a fictitious ‘asylum visa’…” He added: “In recent months, the Hong Kong Government had multiple meetings with the Consul General India… to express our profound concern against Indian agencies allegedly arranging Indian nationals to enter Hong Kong for unlawful employment…we requested the Indian government to render all possible assistance in combating such crimes,” said Tung-kwok.