Data Visualizations

Publicly-available data on immigration detention in Hong Kong is extremely scarce. Considering that detention concerns persons deprived of their freedom, the lack of data is markedly concerning.

In the past year, our team has extensively scoured many sources to collect data on immigration detention and vulnerable migrants in Hong Kong. The results of our efforts are shared here and will be periodically updated with more data. All sources are referenced.

We screen hundreds of sources to clean and compile data for comparability across time periods and ensure its accuracy. However, in the rare chance that there is an inconsistency, please do not hesitate to contact us through the contact form. More downloadable data will be available soon.

Last update: Oct 19, 2021

If you intend to use the data, please read the notes for accuracy.

Where did we look for data?

Due to the scarcity of data on immigration detention, we had to look for data that exists under multiple government departments. Furthermore, the limited data on detention makes comparative data, such as with prison institutions, increasingly relevant.

We have looked at thousands of pages of literature and reports, and hundreds of data sources, including but not limited to the following:

  • Immigration Department Annual Reports
  • Immigration Department Enforcement Stats webpage
  • Correctional Services Department Stats webpage
  • Hong Kong Government submissions to United Nations bodies
  • LegCo press releases
  • Security Bureau Replies to Finance Committee
  • Hong Kong Government Data Portal
  • Census and Statistics Department website
  • Hong Kong Police Force website
  • Access to information requests (by others)
  • Access to information requests (filed by this project)
  • and more

If you are on mobile, please view in desktop mode to see the visualizations.

Table of contents

Section 1: Immigration detention numbers and demographics

Where are people detained?

Facilities managed by the Immigration Department, Correctional Services Department, and more.

In fact, the Immigration Ordinance states immigration detainees can be held in essentially any police, immigration, prison facility as well as border control points.

The two main detention facilities managed by the Immigration Department are Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC) and Ma Tau Kok Detention Centre (MTKDC).

As of early 2021, a third detention facility is in use. The former prison Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution (TTGI) was recommissioned as an immigration detention facility. It is run by the Correctional Services Department and detainees are subject to the Prison Rules.

What are the difficulties in finding data?

Thus, the difficulty of finding data on detainee population is in part due to the fact that detainees may be scattered across multiple institutions under the authority of multiple departments.

Another difficulty is that datasets that cover different time periods might not use the same measurement; this makes merging datasets to get a larger time period not possible.

Data measurements

Data measures that have been used in the datasets we encountered include:

  • yearly admittances,
  • average daily population, and
  • a snapshot of the population at the end of the year.

Yearly admittances can illuminate the scale of turnover in a facility while average daily population could be useful to understand which years a facility is closer to capacity. However since average daily population would never exceed the capacity of the facility, a broader comparison between facilities may remain limited.

How many people are admitted to CIC and MTKDC every year?

Usage note: Please note the measurement units used. For example, yearly admissions and average daily population cannot be combined across time periods as they are different measurement units.

How many persons are released from CIC every year?

Where are the detainees in CIC from?

This chart shows the most common nationalities of detainees in CIC on Dec 31 of the past three years, with less common nationalities in “Other”.

The following chart shows all nationalities in detail on Dec 31 for a larger time period. 

Usage note: “End of year” indicates the number of people on the last day of the year (ex. Dec 31, 2018). This means that the data shows the snapshot of the detainee population only on that day, and cannot be generalized to represent the whole year. 

What is the gender of detainees at CIC?

Click on the items in the legend to filter out different categories.

How old are the detainees in MTKDC?

This data shows a snapshot of the age groups in MTKDC on Dec 31, and thus cannot be generalized to represent the whole year.

What is the gender of detainees at MTKDC?

This data shows a snapshot of MTKDC on Dec 31, and thus cannot be generalized to represent the whole year.

Is there a recent snapshot of detainee demographic data?

These visualizations show demographic data of detainees who were at CIC on July 31, 2021. Click on the arrows to navigate to nationality, age, sex, and immigration status.

Section 2: Immigration detention conditions

Are detainees strip searched?

How many complaints are made by detainees every year?

What do we know about violence in detention? 

There is data on physical confrontations at the two main detention facilities managed by the ImmD. This graph shows data from CIC.

How many people are injured as a result? 

How many detainees receive penalties as a result?

What do we know about violence in MTKDC? 

Section 3: Immigration Department enforcement actions

What enforcement actions are conducted by the Immigration Department? 

Deportation vs Removal Deportation occurs when a person commits an offence and is banned from the territory for a fixed period of time or for life. Removal occurs to “restore the person to the place from whence [they] came” with there is no ban on return.

How many (non-ethnic-Chinese) persons are removed every year? 

This chart shows the number of non-ethnic Chinese (NEC) persons removed from Hong Kong every year, and is not limited only to non-refoulement claimants. NEC is a category defined by the government. 

How many persons are arrested for immigration offences? 

This graph indicates the number of persons arrested and not the number of persons prosecuted (ie. charged) nor convicted (ie. found guilty). Not all those arrested will necessarily be prosecuted, and not all those prosecuted will necessarily be convicted.

Of those arrested, how many have been convicted?

What are convictions? After a person is arrested, they may be prosecuted. If after trial they are found guilty, then they are convicted. In other words, arrested persons are not necessarily guilty, while convicted persons have been found guilty. 

Section 4: Refugee / Non-refoulement / USM Claims

Hong Kong does not legally recognize refugees, but refugees can apply for a status called non-refoulement. Having non-refoulement status prevents the person from being deported while they face the risk of serious harm or death upon being returned, thus allowing them to stay in Hong Kong temporarily.

The process to apply for non-refoulement in Hong Kong is called the Unified Screening Mechanism. The initial application stage is managed by the Immigration Department. If the applicant receives a rejection, they can appeal to the Torture Claims Appeal Board (TCAB). If the applicant then receives a rejection at the TCAB stage, they might have the option to bring their case to judicial review. If their case is approved in judicial review, it would be required to be reviewed again by the TCAB.

How many non-refoulement claims are filed and determined every year?

“Claims made” are claims filed by non-refoulement applicants. “Claims determined” are claims where a decision was made on the claim (ie. approved / rejected). “Outstanding claims” refers to claims that are still being processed through the system.

Who is currently in the process of their USM claim?

Click on the arrows to see demographics of USM claimants (at Sept 2021) with outstanding (ie. pending) claims. Demographics include nationality, age, sex, and immigration status.

What are the nationalities of the substantiated claimants in the USM?

A substantiated non-refoulement claim is one that has been approved, which allows the claimant to remain in the territory.

An increasingly large proportion of USM claims are substantiated on appeal.

This suggests a high rejection rate of USM claims at the initial application stage to the government.

80% of applications to work by USM claimants have been approved.

Non-refoulement claimants whose claims have been approved are not automatically granted the right to work. In order to work, one would need to apply separately to the Immigration Department. The request for approval to work is not considered through a formal system but on a “case-by-case” and “exceptional basis“.

Section 5: Expenditures

How much is spent in relation to non-refoulement claimants? 

How much is spent on repatriating people?

These figures indicate expenditure involved with repatriation of persons, including but not limited to non-refoulement claimants.

How much does it cost to detain people at CIC? 

How much does it cost to detain people at MTKDC? 

How much does it cost to detain people at other control points managed by the Immigration Department? 

Section 6: Prisons / Correctional Services Department (CSD)

Immigration detainees can also be held in facilities managed by the Correctional Services Department, however a breakdown of which detainees in these facilities are immigration detainees as opposed to prisoners is not publicly available.

Additionally, official data on immigration detention is quite limited in comparison to official data on prisons, making comparative data analysis particularly relevant.

How many prisoners are held in Hong Kong’s prisons?

Approximately one third of prisoners are foreigners.

How many complaints are filed against the CSD? 

These include complaints filed by persons in custody, the public, and staff.

What types of complaints were investigated?

How many incidents of self-harm occur in prisons?

Unlike the CSD, the Immigration Department does not maintain similar statistics.

Section 7: Victims of trafficking

How many victims of trafficking have been identified by authorities?

This chart shows how many victims of trafficking were identified by either the Immigration Department or Hong Kong Police Force.

Are there foreign domestic workers who are victims of trafficking?

What is the gender of victims who were identified?

This data shows the total number of victims of trafficking identified by the government in the time period between 2016 and April of 2018.

Vocabulary List

Commonly Used Abbreviations

CIC – Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre

CIU – Complaints Investigation Unit (of the Correctional Services Department)

CSD – Correctional Services Department

HKPF – Hong Kong Police Force

ImmD – Immigration Department

MTKDC – Ma Tau Kok Detention Centre

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