Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon, who is also the spokesman for the government’s top advisory Executive Council, has announced that the government has finished drafting a new immigration, stay and residency bill, which proposes the collection and verification of visitors’ biometric data by Macao’s law enforcement agencies, “With reference to international common practice, the bill proposes the introduction of measures to collect and verify visitors’ biometric data so as to enable [immigration officers] to effectively detect those using a false identity, with the aim of preventing and combating illegal immigration and overstaying more effectively,” Cheong said.
The bill will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly (AL) in due course for debate, review and vote.
Addressing a press conference at Government Headquarters on Friday, Cheong pointed out that Macao’s current legislation on immigration-related matters has been in force for over 10 years, with many of the rules unable to meet the needs resulting from the city’s constant social development, adding that therefore the current rules need to be amended with the aim of enabling law enforcement officers to combat illegal immigration and overstaying and to prevent the occurrence of related crimes more effectively.
Macao’s immigration, stay and residency system is currently regulated by two laws enacted in 2003 and 2004 respectively along with two administrative regulations (by-laws) promulgated in 2003. The 2003 law specifies the general principles and rules for immigration and non-locals’ stay and residency matters, while the 2004 law lists the rules concerning illegal immigration, overstaying and deportation. The two administrative regulations specify detailed rules for the enforcement of the 2003 immigration law.
The government proposes that the immigration, stay and residency bill will replace the two existing immigration and residency-related laws and the two by-laws. After the bill is passed by the legislature in its final reading in the future, the government is slated to draft and announce a number of supplementary administrative regulations for the enforcement of the future new immigration, stay and residency law.
Also addressing Friday’s press conference, Public Security Police (PSP) Commissioner Ng Kam Wa said that the biometric data collection proposed in the bill would include fingerprints, palm prints, iris, retina, and facial recognition. Ng said that after the new law is implemented, immigration officers will only collect and verify one of these several kinds of biometric data from visitors.
Macao’s immigration service is run by the Public Security Police.
The bill also proposes that the city’s hotels will be required to provide the immigration authorities with the check-in and check-out information of their non-local guests within 24 hours.
The bill also proposes a new category of crime for sham marriages.
Cheong said that the bill proposes to “criminalise” fraudulent activities with the purpose of obtaining a residency or special stay permit from the local authorities. Ng said that sham marriage, bogus adoption and fake employment will be covered by the fraudulent activities proposed by the bill.
Ng noted that the police can currently only take criminal action against those involved in fake marriages based on the document forgery charges listed in the existing law on illegal immigration, overstaying and deportation enacted in 2004, according to which the offender faces a prison term of between two and eight years.
However, Ng said that currently, it is difficult to ensure that suspects involved in fake marriages will be found guilty of a document forgery charge by the courts. Ng said that the bill clearly defines fraudulent activities based on bogus marriages with the aim of enabling the police to carry out investigations and take legal action in line with the proposed charge.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macao News)
PHOTO © Exmoo