Human rights lawyers and lawmakers have raised concerns about conditions in the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Detention Centre, saying they are worried about the risk of Covid-19 spreading among detainees. The Immigration Department nonetheless stated that the health and safety of staff and detainees is a prime concern and that appropriate measures have been put in place to avoid contamination. In addition, a spokesman for the Department of Health said that if detainees “show any symptoms of Covid-19, they will be sent to public hospitals.” Opened in 2005, the Castle Peak Bay (CPB) facility has a total capacity of around 400 places, although it is not known how many people are currently detained there. Most detainees are from Vietnam, Central America, South America, India, and Pakistan. Men and women are held on different floors in the facility.
Concerns were voiced following reports of “rats in the premises, malfunctioning toilets, a lack of bleach for disinfection, no access or insufficient access to soap and hand sanitisers.” Karen McClellan, a lawyer at Daly & Associates, said that they were very concerned about Covid-19 spreading in immigration detention centres: “This is an area that we’re very concerned is falling through the cracks, putting an already vulnerable group even more at risk.”
Dr. Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, a Hong Kong politician, also raised concerns about hygiene after visiting the centre on 12 March. He was shocked to see detainees in a day room using ladles to scoop water from a plastic bucket to drink. He also observed that detainees spent most of their time in day rooms the size of a regular classroom, with around 40 to 60 people in each room.
The Immigration Department stated that cleaning and disinfection had been stepped up at the centre since the outbreak of the disease. New arrivals with recent travel history outside Hong Kong have reportedly been segregated and observed and the centre has been collecting saliva samples for Covid-19 tests, but the Department did not mention when this began or how many detainees have been tested for now.”
In the past, many NGOs have criticised conditions at Hong Kong’s two detention facilities, including abuses by security guards and lack of food and unsanitary conditions. Multiple incidents of mistreatment have previously been reported at CPB. In 2019, Yuli Riswati, an Indonesian migrant domestic worker and journalist, was deported from Hong Kong to Indonesia after reporting on the 2019 anti-extradition law protests. Before she was deported, Yuli was detained for 28 days. While in detention, Yuli was subject to a strip-search by male doctors (despite being Muslim) and was declined adequate medical treatment despite suffering from vomiting and flu. This resulted in her physical deterioration and psychological depression.
- L. Westbrook, “Coronavirus: Hong Kong Lawyers, Lawmakers Flag Hygiene Issues at Detention Centre, but Immigration Says Health Measures in Place,” South China Morning Post, 26 April 2020, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3081544/coronavirus-hong-kong-lawyers-lawmakers-flag
- Support Group for Yuli, “Indonesian migrant domestic worker detained for 28 days for writing about Hong Kong protests in the name of immigration measures, Hong Kong government politically suppress the worker writer,” Support Group for Yuli, 1 December 2019, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_U-p9vd9YEZa01RTUoydG1ZQ3VUNzhiNmVqeEpISm8wODEw/edit
- Yehua, “Hong Kong deports writer and migrant worker Yuli Riswati,” Lausan, 2 December 2019, https://lausan.hk/2019/hong-kong-deports-writer-and-migrant-worker-yuli-riswati/
- Raquel Carvalho, “Hong Kong rights lawyers allege pattern of mistreatment in immigration detention centre,” South China Morning Post, 12 July 2017, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2102393/hong-kong-rights-lawyers-allege-pattern-mistreatment
- Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre in Tuen Mun, (Handout, “Coronavirus: Hong Kong Lawyers, Lawmakers Flag Hygiene Issues at Detention Centre, but Immigration Says Health Measures in Place,” South China Morning Post, 26 April 2020, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3081544/coronavirus-hong-kong-lawyers-lawmakers-flag)