The Immigration Department has revealed that mainland China is the no.1 country of origin for refugees whose claims were rejected by Hong Kong authorities.

The department said it repatriated 5,932 unsuccessful refugee claimants last year. The top country of origin of those who were repatriated was mainland China, followed by Vietnam and India.

Immigration Tower. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The department said there are around 9,200 pending non-refoulement claims. Meanwhile, 7,000 such claims have been determined since 2014, of which only 52 – or 0.7 per cent – were substantiated.

It estimated that around HK$1.1 billion was spent last year on expenses related to those claims.

Expenditure on handling non-refoulement claims between 2014 and 2017. Photo: LegCo.

‘Fake refugees’

The Immigration Department revealed the figures in a document submitted to the legislature on Friday. It released the information at the request of lawmakers Holden Chow and Starry Lee of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB).

The DAB has long campaigned against the city’s “fake refugee problem.” It claims that Hong Kong suffers from an influx of “fake refugees” and that they mostly come from “South Asia.”

DAB’s Elizabeth Quat (centre left) and Holden Chow (centre right) at an anti-“fake refugee” rally.

Other parties that are vocal on the issue include the pro-business Liberal Party and pro-Beijing New People’s Party.

DAB previously asserted that many “fake refugees” cause a public nuisance in local communities. It also said they are responsible for serious crimes such as rape, though government data provided at DAB’s request at the time did not substantiate this.

Last year, lawmaker Regina Ip of the New People’s Party proposed putting claimants in a closed camp outside of Hong Kong to deter “fake refugees.” The Equal Opportunities Commission’s chair Alfred Chan came under fire after stating support for the proposal.

See also: ‘No future in Hong Kong’: Snowden refugees petition Canadian government for resettlement

Liberal Party campaign. Photo: Dan Garrett.

The government maintains a firm policy of not granting asylum and refugee status to any claimants. Even if their claims are substantiated, they will not be allowed to remain in Hong Kong. Instead, their cases are referred to other countries for resettlement.

If the claims are unsuccessful, they will be sent back to their country of origin.

Hong Kong is not party to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.