News/Canada: Illegals used as cheap labour

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Subject: News/Canada: Illegals used as cheap labour
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Fri Aug 20 1999 - 09:37:34 EDT

This article outlines how the lines between smuggling and trafficking are
very thin. We must make sure that those who are smuggled and those who end
up in trafficking situations receive protection; however, those who end up
in trafficking situation should be allowed to sue for backwages, testify
against the traffickers and receive protection from the country of



Illegals used as cheap labour
Thousands of migrants en route to New York settle in Toronto's Chinatown
Adrienne Tanner
National Post, August 16, 1999

TORONTO - While many fortune-seekers from China's Fujian province use
Canada as a pipeline to New York, thousands have settled in Toronto, where
they live and work in the bustle of downtown Chinatown.

Toronto's Fukinese community numbers between 4,000 and 8,000, Peter Yeun, a
detective with the Toronto Police Service's Asian Crime Unit, says.

Few are criminals by trade, but most do enter Canada illegally, paying
smugglers for perilous boat journeys or fraudulent documents that allow
them to come by plane.

"If 50% of them tell us their real names, we're ahead of the game. We don't
know who they are, there's no database or fingerprints or anything like
that," Det. Yeun says.

New arrivals find jobs in grocery stores and restaurants in working-class
areas near Spadina Avenue and Gerrard Street East, where they work for low
wages to send money to their families in China.

"They take jobs that you and I would not take," Joanne Lau, a Metro Toronto
South East Asian Legal Clinic lawyer, says.

Many recent arrivals are refugee claimants and are permitted to work until
their hearing. Some have no legal status in Canada at all. Police seldom
bother to check.

"Even if we go there and arrest them for working without permits, the
bottom line is they're going to come back out again and claim refugee
status," Det. Yeun says.

Patrolling Chinatown, Det. Yeun has come to know the Fukinese migrants and
the thriving smuggling racket pedaling the North American dream.

"They have to pay $38,000 to $48,000 to get smuggled into Canada." Usually
half is paid up front in China, the other half upon arrival. The smugglers,
or snakeheads, are supplied with the contact numbers before they leave
China and call demanding payment once their human cargo is delivered, Det.
Yeun says.

All new arrivals, even those who sneak into Canada undetected, are advised
to make refugee claims that entitle them to medical care and social

Most of the time, smugglers are promptly paid and the migrants are set free
to eke out a living in Canada or try their luck in the United States. "They
are hard- working citizens who hold down jobs," Det. Yeun says.

But in 10% to 15% of the cases, the Canadian contact fails to show up with
the money, leaving the migrant under the control of a highly-organized gang
of snakehead debt collectors.

Women are sent to work in sleazy massage parlours in Toronto or New York.
The men live 10 to a room in flophouses and work in the supermarkets, where
they earn between $200 and $300 per month, Det. Yeun says.

Snakeheads siphon the bulk of their wages, leaving the indentured labourers
with less than $10 a day spending money.

"They get up at 6 a.m. to go to work, and at 6 p.m., they're all lined up
in the back alleys squatting with a bowl of rice. Those are your Fukinese
illegals who weren't able to come up with the money to pay these
snakeheads." Fear keeps them silent and police get few complaints.

A rare glimpse into the closed, violent world will be offered in September,
when court proceedings begin against five snakeheads charged with
extortion, assault, uttering death threats and attempting to obstruct
justice. Warrants have been issued for two more gang members who escaped
after the February, 1998, incident.

The case revolves around a family man who didn't pay their smuggling debt
and was caught by angry gang members while eating lunch in a downtown
restaurant. As the family was beaten in front of terrified passersby on the
corner of Spadina and Dundas, one gang member sent a thug to threaten their
ageing father in Fujian.

Det. Yeun wishes more victims would come forward, but fear of reprisals,
both in Canada and back in China, make it unlikely.

The flow of refugee claimants from China isn't new, Ms. Lau says. "Recently
it has gotten a lot of publicity because the methods are getting so

Two boatloads of migrants from China's Fujian province have landed in
Canada this summer and up to two more boats are rumoured to be on the way.
Most refugee claimants have arrived by plane.

Canada suspended deportations of Chinese refugee claimants after the 1989
Tiananmen Square massacre and allowed many to stay permanently under a
special immigration program, which has ended. Today failed refugee
claimants from China are deported once they have exhausted all their
avenues of appeal.

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