News/AUSTRALIA: HUMAN CARGO.

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Subject: News/AUSTRALIA: HUMAN CARGO.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Nov 17 1999 - 21:06:52 EST


11-3-99 AUSTRALIA: HUMAN CARGO.
People have become a profitable commodity and triads the primary
profit-makers, writes Marshall Wilson
WHEN immigration officers debrief the 352 illegal immigrants who arrived
off the north-west coast of Western Australia aboard an Indonesian ferry
yesterday, their primary task will be to establish exactly where the asylum
seekers slot into the worldwide trade in human cargo.
The arrival of 299 men, women and children from Iraq, another 46 from
Afghanistan, four from Iran, two from Algeria and one Palestinian, clearly
illustrates the global nature of people-smuggling.
It also further highlights global concern about the role of Chinese
organised crime syndicates, the triads.
While at face value yesterday's unscheduled arrival is hardly proof of any
Chinese "dirty war", Queensland academic and triad crime expert Mark Craig
believes it is an event that needs to be taken seriously. He says even
though there appears no outward sign of triad involvement in yesterday's
landing 600km north of Broome, it bears all the hallmarks of such an
operation.
Triad involvement in people-smuggling is a major world concern. In Canada,
the issue has spawned a royal commission amid allegations Chinese criminals
had infiltrated overseas embassies in Hong Kong before the British handover
of the territory in 1997.
Once inside, the criminals allegedly erased criminal records of triad
members, allowing them to be "seeded" into foreign countries including
Canada, the United States and, possibly, Australia.
An illustration of how organised crime deals in people-smuggling is now
being played out in a case before the Campbelltown District Court in New
South Wales.
Crown prosecutor Peter Renehan has described how weeks of discreet
surveillance ended a Chinese-based people-smuggling operation that took
money and sophisticated planning to get started. That it failed owes more
to bad luck than lack of intent or preparation. It was thwarted only when
Sydney customs officers searched the bags of five passengers who arrived
>from Hong Kong aboard a Singapore Airlines flight on April 29.
What they found was a revelation - identification documents for 51 Chinese
nationals from Fujian province and several nautical charts.
The find sparked intense interest.
With the principals under surveillance, federal police and customs agents
watched as two suspects paid $40,000 in cash for the purchase of a
speedboat named Gruesome. They then hired a four-wheel drive vehicle and
several mini-vans, presumably to transport a large number of people.
They also leased a "safe house" and laid plans to meet a
Panamanian-registered vessel due to arrive off Port Hacking in NSW on May
16.
The plan came unstuck only when Gruesome developed engine trouble, allowing
federal agents to board the Kayuen as she approached the Australian coast.
There they found 69 Chinese nationals, 32 of whom had names that matched
the bogus identification documents already found.
"This is a major international enterprise to bring these people to
Australia," the Crown prosecutor told the court in the continuing hearing
against Chuu Yu Chen and Jian Bin Pan.
In truth, it may be far more than that.
At a time when Australian immigration authorities are clearly struggling to
come to terms with the size of the latest Asian invasion, it has at last
crystalised the belief that people-trafficking is big business.
Experts estimate it is worth anything between $US7 billion and $US10
billion a year to the organised crime groups that have galvanised to fill
the demand from an estimated 100 million people around the world looking to
escape some form of persecution.
"For many people-traffickers have become the only available avenue to
escape persecution, poverty and unemployment," says Adelaide academic
Andreas Schloenhardt who completed a PhD thesis on the economics that
governs organised crime and illegal migration.
"The major objective of organised criminal activity is economic gain.
Essential to the existence and survival of the criminal enterprise is a
consumer population which provides a permanent demand for the goods and
services in question."
It therefore stands to reason, he says, that Australia's attempts to
nullify the threat should be directed at those who traffic in people, not
the hapless victims.
Schloenhardt argues Australian law-enforcement strategies are confused and
seemingly directionless, targeting those who pay vast sums to "snakeheads"
who scout for business on behalf of the triads.
Big money changes hands - often up to $50,000 a head - with newcomers often
caught in a poverty trap not of their making as they struggle to pay off
debts to those that shipped them.
Many are forced to work as gangland enforcers, debt collectors, pimps and
prostitutes. Either way, it usually ensures they remain committed to a life
of crime in the ethnic communities that shelter them.
Although people-smuggling is not dominated by any one ethnic group,
Schloenhardt's research suggests that in Australia the greatest threat
comes from Chinese or Vietnamese groups such as the San Yee On triad or Big
Circle Gang.
Of mounting concern to Canadian authorities is the sudden proliferation of
Chinese triads in key cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
Despite advance warning as far back as 1992 that Chinese triad chiefs had
bribed officers attached to the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong to erase
their criminal profiles from the immigration database, until now no one had
taken it seriously.
According to the officer who originally reported the security breach,
thousands of triad members had subsequently gained entry to Canada.
Earlier this year, at the height of a steamy Canadian summer, the
unannounced arrival of more than 600 Chinese boat people from Fujian
province sparked a public outcry.
It also helped concentrate the minds of agencies like the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Secret Intelligence Service (CSIS) whose
role in verifying information passed on by former immigration officer Brian
McAdam has since been confirmed.
It has also been identified as slipshod.
Why did the Canadians not take the advance warning to heart?
Because, as McAdam has since told The Courier-Mail, it involved key
consular staff and would have provoked a political backlash at a time that
Ottawa was attempting to develop stronger trade ties with Beijing.
(c) 1999 Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd.
COURIER MAIL (BRISBANE) 03/11/1999 P17


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