News/Canada: 100,000 people smuggled from China every year

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Subject: News/Canada: 100,000 people smuggled from China every year
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Wed Jul 21 1999 - 16:27:33 EDT

There is information about trafficking of persons for forced labor in here,
in addition to the informtion about smuggling.


100,000 people smuggled from China every year
By Jonathan Manthorpe
The Vancouver Sun, July 21, 1999

Crooked Island is a little rocky outcrop looking north to the Chinese
mainland just off Hong Kong's northeast coast.

On the island is the fishing village of Kat O, a settlement for centuries
of northern Chinese Hakka sea nomads.

The village is almost empty now. Only a few elderly women and men amble its
narrow streets.

But the old cottages are mostly neat and freshly painted with the gifts of
money sent back by Kat O's departed population.

Across southern China are scores of villages like Kat O with fine, newly
remodelled houses and hardly anyone living in them.

These are the home villages of the estimated one million Chinese who, since
Beijing relaxed emigration regulations in 1979, have gone to seek their
fortunes in North America, Europe or other more profitable parts of Asia.

Most, like the people of Kat O who now mostly live in Britain southeast of
London, have taken the legal, bureaucratic route to their new lives.

For those, however, who don't meet immigration requirement in their
would-be new homes there are desperate -- and very expensive -- alternatives.

Some Western intelligence agencies believe that international criminal
gangs now make more money out of smuggling people than trafficking in drugs.

The numbers are all guesswork, but it is thought about 100,000 Chinese a
year pay people smugglers, often known as ''snakeheads'' up to $20,000 US
to get them to a new country.

The favourite destination is the United States, where about 40,000 Chinese
a year are thought to evade the immigration net, many through Canada, and
disappear into the big cities.

Other frequently used routes into the U.S. are through outlying American
territories like Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where
immigration controls are less stringent than on the mainland. Flights from
these territories to the continental U.S. are considered domestic, so there
are no immigration formalities on arrival.

In recent years, the demand by Chinese to leave for new homes has become so
great the snakeheads have had to add more destinations.

Australia has caught more than 750 illegal Chinese immigrants this year --
triple the total for last year -- most of whom arrived in the country by ship.

Even South Africa has found that whole families are being smuggled in from
China, often in the guise of students.

At the same time there has been a massive influx of Chinese into Southeast

Nearly half a million Chinese have arrived in Thailand in the last two
years and a Philippines' senator recently claimed 120,000 people from
mainland China had been smuggled into his country during the same period.

Economic migrants, however, are only one part of the business that makes
the snakeheads' operations so profitable.

The smuggling of women and children for prostitution is conducted on a
massive scale not only all over Asia, but in Europe and North America as
well. Again, Canada is a favourite transit route into the U.S.

In Japan alone, at least 150,000 prostitutes have been smuggled in from
Thailand and the Philippines, according to the Coalition Against
Trafficking in Women.

Pasuk Pongpaichit, economics professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn
University, estimated in a recent study that criminal gangs made about
$3-billion US a year smuggling Thai women to Japan, Germany and Taiwan.

Thailand and Malaysia are common transit routes in Asia used by the
snakeheads because of the high quality fake travel documents produced there.

The mass shipment of people in sometimes dangerously old and dilapidated
vessels remains the low end of the trade, however.

In the past, snakeheads have packed scores of people into rotting wooden
fishing boats with little expectation the ships would survive the journey
-- and many haven't.

In recent years, there is evidence the people-smuggling gangs have formed
alliances with the pirates who increasingly infest Asian waters.

A relatively new phenomenon is the problem of ''phantom ships.'' These
ships have been taken by pirates, who often murder the entire crew.

The ship is then renamed and provided with false registration papers. It
may then be sold and carry on trading under its new colours, but often
these ghost ships are used by the snakeheads for smuggling people.

Higher up the market, the snakeheads use airlines to transport their clients.

The scams used to get people through immigration procedures at the
destinations are almost endless.

The documents may be fake or stolen and doctored, but built-in security
features in modern passports have made this approach uncertain.

In countries that are lenient to refugees, the would-be immigrants may
destroy their passports en route or hand them over to the snakehead's
courier travelling with them. The arrivals then claim refugee status.

A persistent irritant in Canada-China relations in recent years has been
Beijing's refusal to accept such people back, on the grounds that as they
have no documents, their true nationality cannot be known.

For the long-term investment of smuggling women for prostitution, the
snakeheads often prefer to use quasi-legal methods to get through immigration.

A well-used system is to provide the women with enrolment in language
schools in Europe, Australia, Canada or the U.S., which can entitle them to
a temporary student's visa.

Again, this is a favourite system for smuggling women through Canada into
the U.S.

A number of small and poor countries have realized that there is money to
be made by selling citizenship and passports.

Honduras is well known for its passport sales, but there are a number of
small countries from the Caribbean and elsewhere that keep consulates in
Guangzhou in southern China for no obvious reason.


The International Organization for Migration estimates that four million
people are ''trafficked'' every year in a global trade worth $10 billion
annually. Illegal immigrants from China have become a major challenge for
North American, European, Japanese and Russian authorities.

The trip from Fujian province, the principal departure point for Chinese
illegal immigrants, to New York, the major destination for many, can take
two years or more, U.S. officials say.

Ship destinations are selected in advance. Shore-based accomplices
rendezvous with mother ship, offload the ''cargo,'' and provide safe houses
and employment for the immigrants.


Fujian province in southern China has become a primary source of illegal
immigrants who use sea, air and land methods to accomplish their aims. The
''snakeheads, '' or people smugglers, are usually part of criminally linked
syndicates that fill orders from overseas employers to supply sweatshop
workers, kitchen hands or prostitutes, who often must work in virtual
bondage for years to pay off their passage.

China's Public Security Bureau estimates that there are hundreds of
thousands of Chinese all over the world--in Moscow, Bangkok, Saigon,
Africa, Latin America, and Europe-- cramped in cheap housing, waiting to
continue their migration to North America.


july 20: About 100 Asians were discovered crammed into the hold of a cargo
vessel Tuesday in what authorities described as a human smuggling operation
on a scale not seen before in British Columbia waters. Two possible crew
members apprehended ashore spoke Chinese.

The 55-metre vessel was stopped near Tahsis on the west coast of Vancouver
Island about 300 kilometres northwest of Victoria.


Remarkable cases in U.S. waters, where many ships have been apprehended:

DECEMBER 1992: The Manyoshi Maru was found off San Francisco with 180
Chinese aboard along with an Indonesian captain and eight crew members of
unknown nationality. The 50- metre grain-transport vessel was sailing from
Taiwan to a Canadian port.

January 1993: A ship carrying an extraordinary 527 Chinese passengers plus
10 crew members issued a mayday call 2,500 kilometres off Hawaii. After
being helped by the U.S. Coast Guard, it eventually returned to China.


During May and June this year, a surge of refugee- bearing ships appeared
in Australian waters:

June 1999 -- A 40-metre fishing boat carrying more than 100 suspected
illegal immigrants from China seized by Australian customs officials as it
was attempting to land north of Sydney. It was the second-biggest boatload
of suspected illegal immigrants to be intercepted off the Australian coast.

-- A group of 86 would-be refugees was stranded in mid-June on a tiny
island in the Timor Sea north of Broome in Western Australia.

-- Australia announced a $124 million, four-year response to the spate of
illegal immigrants

MAY 1999: Australian customs seized another vessel Kayuen, on the southeast
coast. It was carrying 69 illegal immigrants from southern China and had a
crew of 14. Police investigators later claimed the entry was masterminded
in Hong Kong.

In a two-year period, Canadian police say, one group funnelled 3,600
illegal Chinese immigrants through Canada, netting organizers $170 million.
Often, the migrants' final destination is the United States. Methods have
included conveying migrants to a native Indian reserve that straddles the
U.S.-Canada border, where crossing is made; and concealing people beneath
vehicles while they are entering the U.S.

JULY 1987 Up to 178 Asian migrants, most of them Sikhs, waded on to a Nova
Scotia shore in the single largest people-smuggling operation in Canadian
history. They had probably left Rotterdam for a two- week Atlantic crossing
aboard a 59-metre tramp freighter.

August 1986: 155 Tamils arrived in boats off the Newfoundland coast.

JUNE 1993: The small Panamanian vessel Golden Venture ran aground in New
York Harbor in June 1993, revealing a cargo of almost 300 Chinese illegal
immigrants. Malnourished and mistreated, this human freight had been
waiting to be smuggled on shore--a privilege for which each passenger had
paid between $15,000 and $35,000 US.

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