NON-REFOULEMENT PROTECTION: THE GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS TO AMEND THE IMMIGRATION ORDINANCE

The Government consulted the Legislative Council (“LegCo”) Panel on Security in July 2018 on some proposals to amend the Immigration Ordinance Cap 115 (the “Ordinance”) on procedures of screening non-refoulement claims and handling appeals. At a meeting of the LegCo Panel on Security in January 2019, the Security Bureau put forward further and other amendment proposals to the Ordinance.

Many of the proposed amendments seek to fast-track the screening procedures by shortening or imposing short time frames for the process. The Government claims that these proposals aim to reduce delays in the screening process, and improve the procedures and the handling of appeals.

In respect of the above proposals, the Law Society notes that, according to the statistics provided by the Security Bureau, the number of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants and non-refoulement claims have dropped significantly (since the Government’s latest review of the strategy of handling non-refoulement claims). As such, the current proposals to shorten the screening process or place a limitation after a person becomes liable to removal could not be justified.

In a submission filed with the Security Bureau in February 2019, the Law Society pointed out the problems with the current screening regime. Apart from commenting on the proposed legislative amendments, we suggested the Bureau to consider non-legislative enhancements to improve the screening mechanism. We also asked that the decisions by the Torture Claim Appeal Board / Non-Refoulement Claims Petition Office be made public (on a redacted basis), and that information such as those Country of Origin Information and rapporteur reports should be provided. These serve to enhance transparency and accountability. Information and statistics should also be made available on the Pilot Scheme for Provision of Publicly-funded Legal Assistance for Non-refoulement Claimants, in order for us to assess how the pilot scheme has been operating.

A copy of the above submission appears at

http://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/pub_e/news/submissions/20190226.pdf

The Law Society looks forward to be engaged with the Security Bureau for further discussion on the matter.

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