Hong Kong marine police intercepted the sampan in waters off the airport in May last year. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A 27-year-old Pakistani man has become the first person to be jailed under new immigration laws for smuggling 24 people from Pakistan into Hong Kong by boat.

Suleman Muhammad was sentenced to five years and three months in prison by a District Court judge on Wednesday.

The court heard that Muhammad and his charges were in a sampan that was intercepted by marine police on May 25 last year in waters off the airport. He had denied the smuggling charge and also pleaded not guilty to endangering the safety of others at sea.

Muhammad is the first to be convicted after the amendment to the Immigration Ordinance that was expanded to include illegal entrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka, am 730 reported.

Before the amendment, only those who smuggled people from mainland China, Macau and Vietnam faced a harsher sentence of up to 14 years in prison and a HK$5 million fine. Those smuggling people of other nationalities faced a lesser charge and only a maximum of three years in jail and a HK$25,000 fine.

Detective Senior Inspector Tam Hon-wing from the marine police regional crime unit said the sentence is reasonable and a crackdown on human smuggling remains a police priority.

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