Identifying individuals who do not need to be detained

Authorities in Hong Kong SAR undertake screening and assessment of irregular migrants when considering detention.

Detention policy states that “[i]n determining whether a person should be released or detained, the Director/Secretary will take into consideration all the relevant circumstances of the case, including:

  • Whether the person’s removal is going to be possible within a reasonable time;
  • Whether that person concerned constitutes a threat / security risk to the community;
  • Whether there is any risk of that person’s absconding and/or (re)offending;
  • Whether that person’s identity is resolved or satisfied to be genuine;
  • Whether that person has close connection or fixed abode in Hong Kong; and
  • Whether there are other circumstances in favour of release.”

After a short period of detention, most vulnerable individuals including asylum seekers and torture claimants are released on their own recognisance. This may include conditions of self-surety and minimal reporting requirements.

Asylum seekers and torture claimants are issued with recognisance papers documenting their status in the community. A government-funded project run by a non-government organisation arranges housing in the community and provides food, clothing and medicine.

Using a case management approach, workers assess each case on intake and develop an appropriate program of response, in line with the resources available. Vulnerable clients, such as unaccompanied minors, are given priority and extra sup-port as able.

The program costs HK$109 per person per day and has a compliance rate of 97%. Caseworkers are not responsible for compliance matters, although known breaches must be re-ported to authorities.

Other non-government organisations in Hong Kong provide pro bono legal advice and support services, which strengthen this community context.


Policy providing for for a presumption against detention for certain vulnerable groups 

Policy for detention pending final determination of the claimant’s torture claim cane be found here.


Find out more:

Mark Daly, “Refugee Law in Hong Kong: Building the Legal Infrastructure,” Hong Kong Lawyer 09 (2009): 14-30.

Security Bureau Immigration Department, Detention Policy, (Hong Kong SAR: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, undated)

There are alternatives cover

Over the past five years, the IDC has undertaken a program of research to identify and describe a number of positive alternatives to immigration detention (‘alternatives’) that respect fundamental rights, are less expensive and are equally or more effective than traditional border controls.

This research, entitled There are alternatives, provides readers with the guidance needed to successfully avoid unnecessary detention and to ensure community options are as effective as possible.

This text was published in September 2015.