News/Canada: 18 'enforcers' separated from migrants

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Subject: News/Canada: 18 'enforcers' separated from migrants
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Aug 20 1999 - 09:37:26 EDT


18 'enforcers' separated from migrants
Authorities intercept third boatload of migrants Mystery ship headed for
East Coast
By Moira Mclean
Canadian Press, August 15, 1999

ESQUIMALT B.C. (CP) -- Eighteen suspected enforcers have been separated
from among 131 illegally smuggled Chinese migrants being detained at the
Canadian Forces Base here.

"They are along to make sure that the best interests of the organizers are
taken care of," Immigration Department regional director Jim Redmond said
Saturday.

"They are a controlling force, they're a disciplinary force, and they
collect the money and make the connections with the organized group,
whether it be in Canada or China," Redmond said of the enforcers.

He said some of the migrants are tattooed -- an identifying mark of an
enforcer.

RCMP Const. Tracey Rook said organized crime is heavily involved in the
smuggling of human cargo to the West Coast.

Two boatloads of Chinese migrants -- for a total of more than 250 people --
have arrived on the B.C. coast in less than a month from the Chinese
province of Fujian.

Police have detained three additional migrants at a facility near Victoria,
added Rook.

The three were detained because of incidents aboard buses used to transport
the migrants from where they landed at Port Hardy to Esquimalt but she
would not elaborate.

"They are individuals we have safety and security concerns about," Rook said.

The ship's nine crew members -- believed to be smuggling the migrants into
Canada -- are being detained in a Victoria jail and face charges under the
Immigration Act.

The charges are aiding and abetting a party of 10 or more to illegally
enter the country and causing a person to disembark at sea. Such charges
carry fines as high as $500,000 or 10 years in jail.

Police believe the crew members are South Korean. The South Korean
government said last week the suspected smugglers would also face
prosecution in Korea if they are returned home.

They will appear in a Victoria court on Monday.

Immigration officials attempted to start the refugee hearing process for
the migrants on Friday night but they were too fatigued, Redmond said

"After being fed, showered, and provided clean clothes, they spent a quiet,
peaceful night, and slept in (Saturday) morning."

By Saturday afternoon, preliminary Immigration examination hearings had
been held for 30 of the migrants.

Officials from the B.C. Ministry of Children and Families are sitting in on
the hearings for the 13 juvenile girls and 36 juvenile boys.

Redmond said the ministry has not taken steps to apprehend the children,
but Immigration officials "will be meeting with them in the next couple of
days to discuss the issue of responsibility for and custody of the children."

Meanwhile, RCMP confirm that a third ship loaded with a human cargo of
Chinese migrants had been en route to the Canadian West Coast.

But first Japanese and then American authorities intercepted the vessel and
turned it back, said the RCMP's Rook.

She said the ship carried a cargo of Chinese migrants who expected to make
landfall on the B.C. coast by September.

It was first intercepted and boarded as it passed through Japanese waters.
Then the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted it as it sailed through American
territory in the Pacific.

The police spokeswoman said the ship is now headed to the Mariana Islands,
off Guam, a U.S. territory.

Rook said that although the RCMP knew about the third vessel some time ago,
police could not reveal it sooner because of the involvement of the U.S.
Coast Guard.

Canadian authorities expect more vessels carrying illegal migrants to show
up on the West Coast, Rook said.

"The recent occurrences off of B.C.'s coast are part of a global trend of
migrant smuggling," she said.

"The RCMPs national mandate with the Immigration and Passport section is to
deter and investigate alien smuggling activities. This is an ongoing
problem, and it's being addressed by many countries.

"We are working with other agencies in order to ensure that things don't
get to the stage where (migrants) even leave for here.

"We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to deter and to prosecute
the criminal organizations that bring people to Canada through this or
other illegal methods," she said.

"It's a very lucrative business and the West Coast of B.C. is a very likely
target due to our geographical location. We have a very large coast."

Officials of both the RCMP and federal Immigration Department say the two
separate boatloads of Chinese migrants that have landed in B.C. in less
than a month have stretched their resources to the limit.

"If it was to continue to happen and if it became more prevalent, I would
have to have meetings with my director general on what additional support
we would need to meet these situations," said Immigration spokesman Jim
Redmond.

Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Gerry Pash said additional patrols have been stepped up to
cover sea routes from Asia.

Meanwhile, the processing of the Chinese men, women and children -- one
believed to be as young as eight -- being held at Esquimalt is going
smoothly, Redmond said.

Military doctors have completed examinations that revealed nothing but
minor ailments, Redmond said.

The illegal migrants were dumped into the frigid ocean off the Queen
Charlotte Islands early last week after a harrowing 58 days at sea.

Moe Sihota, B.C. minister of social development and economic security, said
the province's taxpayers can't afford to foot the bill to care for the
migrants -- for possibly three years.

That's how long it takes the federal government to process refugee claims.

Sihota said Ottawa should pay the $5.5 million cost for the two boatloads
of refugees, the first of which arrived last month.

More than 120 illegal Chinese migrants made it to shore in July and 37
suspected smugglers are still in jail.

Both groups of migrants are believed to have arrived from China's Fujian
province.


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