A large-scale people-smuggling operation that uses Shenzhen as a staging post has seen hundreds of illegal immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh or Pakistan, enter Hong Kong (HK) by boats last year.
The migrants fly to cities across mainland China and head to Shenzhen, where they pay middlemen HK$10,000 to HK$12,000 to take them to Hong Kong by high-speed sampan, according to a number of migrants and people with knowledge of the racket, reports South China Morning Post on Sunday.
Shenzhen is a major city in the south of Southern China's Guangdong Province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The Shenzhen link emerged as new figures obtained by the Post reveal a 50 percent year-on-year rise in the number of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants arrested in Hong Kong. The official police figures show the number rose from 291 in the first half of last year to 447 in the same period this year.
“This summer has seen a spike. It has been particularly busy,” a police source told the Post, adding that the authorities were "very confident" they were catching all migrants after they landed on the west and south coasts of Lantau during the night.
Each boat typically carries 10 to 12 people, and usually lands near Tai O or Fan Lau, allowing them to stay in mainland waters for most of the journey, the source said.
It is not clear how many of the illegal immigrants avoid arrest but those picked up are taken to a local police station, before being passed to an immigration centre in Tuen Mun where asylum claims are assessed. Those without valid grounds to seek asylum are deported.
One Pakistani asylum seeker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had used lodgings in Shenzhen three times in the past decade to enter Hong Kong.
The police public relations bureau said they had noted an increase in illegal immigration in the first half of this year.