News/Canada: Few of boat people make claims for asylum, May lack coaching

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Subject: News/Canada: Few of boat people make claims for asylum, May lack coaching
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Aug 16 1999 - 17:23:30 EDT


Few of boat people make claims for asylum, May lack coaching
Nine Koreans to appear in B.C. court today
Stewart Bell
National Post, August 16, 1999

ESQUIMALT, B.C. - Only a handful of the 131 Chinese boat people who came
ashore on the British Columbia coast last week have made refugee claims and
the rest could be swiftly deported, immigration officials said yesterday.

"At this point in time, only a few have indicated a desire to make a
refugee claim. This is quite different from the earlier arrivals," said
Lorna Tessier, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The illegal migrants were given the chance to make a claim during their
first interviews with immigration officers Friday and Saturday. A second
round of interviews began early yesterday, but the migrants did not appear
to be asking for asylum, Ms. Tessier said, even when specifically asked.

Asked why they had not, Ms. Tessier said: "Figure it out."

This group of migrants may not have been properly coached by their
smugglers on the simple claim to persecution needed to initiate Canada's
refugee process. The 126 would-be refugees that arrived on an earlier ship
had all made refugee claims by this stage in the process, often using
identical wording to claim asylum.

If members of the latest group do not make their claims soon, the
Immigration Department says it will issue exclusion orders against them,
barring them from making a claim and forcing them to leave the country.

Few of the migrants have identification documents, but Ms. Tessier said
they told immigration officials they had left China's Fujian province from
an unknown port between June 10 and June 12 and had spent 10 days adrift at
sea due to engine trouble.

Nine Koreans suspected of ferrying the Chinese boat people to Canada will
appear in court today to face human smuggling charges -- the first to be
laid since the arrival of both shiploads.

The Koreans were arrested last week after depositing their human cargo on a
deserted beach on the Queen Charlotte Islands. Authorities would not name
those charged, but said they have been accused under a section of the
Immigration Act that makes it unlawful to be a master or crew member of a
vessel that brings migrants illegally to Canada.

Charges of aiding and abetting a group of 10 or more people to enter Canada
illegally have been recommended for the operators of the first ship.

Police have confirmed that a third ship was headed for Canada but was
spotted by the Japanese navy and diverted by the U.S. Coast Guard to the
Mariana Islands, near U.S.-controlled Guam.

"This is an ongoing problem and it's being addressed by many countries,"
said RCMP Constable Tracey Rook. "We have recognized that B.C.'s West Coast
is a likely target for this type of activity."

The most recent arrivals are being housed in a gymnasium at the naval base.
Four, however, have been sent to a nearby RCMP jail for security reasons.
Forty-nine are minors and may end up in the custody of B.C.'s Ministry for
Children and Families. Among the refugee claimants were 18 suspected
"enforcers" who officials believe were sent to make sure the others paid
off their debts to the smugglers by working in restaurants, brothels or
sweatshops.


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