Concern over asylum seekers sit-in

Local | Yupina Ng 17 Aug 2016

More trouble is brewing at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre where scores of asylum seekers staged a sit-in protest over two nights prompting officers to use pepper spray, an immigration officer said.

The center is a detention facility for immigration offenders, aged 18 and above who are awaiting repatriation, removal or deportation. An Immigration Department spokesman yesterday said around 100 inmates refused to go back to their bedrooms at the required time on Sunday and demanded the department issue immigration recognizance forms.

The immigration recognizance form, also known as a temporary identification document, allows holders to stay in Hong Kong.

The sit-in prompted center supervisors to deploy staff to "maintain order and stay alert," the spokesman said. Around 60 went back to their rooms that night, while the remaining 40 continued the sit-in.

"Two of them were emotional which made the staff release small doses of pepper spray after issuing several warnings, to stop them from hurting themselves and other detained people's safety," the spokesman said.

The spokesman added that all of the protesters went back to their rooms peacefully on Monday night. Immigration Service Officers Association executive committee member Ngai Sik- shui said: "It may be an individual case, but if more negative information is spreading to the detainees at the center, other similar incidents may follow."

Ngai said the center serves as a "midway" for asylum seekers and it could take a week to a month for them to obtain the immigration recognizance forms. As of March 2, there were 11,160 non-refoulement claims pending screening.

"There are always new claimants. And it requires a lot of manpower," he added.

But Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai criticized the department for using force "without reasonable grounds." Law said the force used could not be justified only because the asylum seekers were being "emotional."

"They are just making guesses [that the two asylum seekers would hurt someone]. They could have just separated those who were emotional instead of using pepper spray, which is serious force," he said. "They should not use the pepper spray until the two make actions trying to hurt others or when the situation is urgent enough that leaves the officers without any choice," he said.

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