In 2019, there were more immigration detainees than prisoners in Hong Kong.

Despite these high numbers, little is known about the workings of the immigration detention system.  

What is immigration detention?

Immigration detention refers to the practice of detaining persons suspected of violating immigration rules and regulations in closed government facilities.

In Hong Kong, immigration detention is a form of administrative detention. The decision to deprive an individual of liberty for reasons related to their immigration status is made by government officials, not courts.

How is immigration detention different from prison?

If someone is accused of committing a crime, the criminal charges against them ordinarily have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution in a court of law. A court decides whether and for how long an individual convicted of a crime should be sent to prison. By contrast, an immigration detainee loses their liberty without the check and balance of judicial scrutiny.

Where are people detained in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong’s three main immigration detention facilities are:

  • Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre
  • Ma Tau Kok Detention Centre, and
  • Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution.

Anecdotal accounts indicate that individuals are detained anywhere between a few hours and a few years.

Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre
Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre
(Credit: South China Morning Post)
Ma Tau Kok Detention Centre
Ma Tau Kok Detention Centre
(Credit: Immigration Department)
Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution
Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution
(Credit: Correctional Services Department)

However, immigration detainees can also be held in prisons, police stations, and more.

See the graph below for all detention locations.

How to use this visualisation
  • Where are immigration detainees held?
  • Where are minors held?
  • Which authority manages the facilities?
  • What rules govern the treatment of detainees?

Find the answers to the questions by selecting the options under “Group by” and “Color by”.

About the project

This project is a 3-year project at the Faculty of Law within the Chinese University of Hong Kong to evaluate the immigration detention system in Hong Kong in relation to vulnerable migrants. We aim to generate policy-oriented analysis that can help to improve the system and protect the rights and welfare of detainees and their families. 

Research findings

The project began in July 2020 and will run through June 2023. Research findings and summaries will be updated on this site as the project progresses.

Resources

For individuals seeking help, please see this non-exhaustive list for civil society organizations and other relevant resources.