News/Canada: VANCOUVER, British Columbia: immigration custody.

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Subject: News/Canada: VANCOUVER, British Columbia: immigration custody.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Nov 17 1999 - 21:06:52 EST


           VANCOUVER, British Columbia: immigration custody.

APws 11/6/99 8:27 AM

   According to investigators, the smuggling pipeline stretches from
Vancouver to Toronto, where migrants are kept in safe houses and then taken
into the United States through Indian reservations on the border. Their
destination usually is New York City, where they've been promised
under-the-table jobs in Chinatown.
   Canada is a country built by immigrants, with an increasingly Oriental
flavor. About 7 percent of Canada's 29 million residents are of Asian
origin, according to census figures. Vancouver, which is 25 percent Asian,
is jokingly called Hongcouver in Hong Kong.
   But the sudden wave of boat people has prompted calls for stricter
enforcement against illegal immigration and tougher criteria in granting
refugee status. Many Canadians, especially other immigrants, resent that
boat people are "jumping the queue" ahead of aliens who may wait years for
permission to move here.
   "You feel sorry for them as human beings, but there are ways to come
into the country legally," said Betty Hamilton, 55, who runs a
bed-and-breakfast in Port Hardy.
   She joined several hundred onlookers in August when Coast Guard boats
arrived in the harbor with Chen and the other 129 Chinese from the second
boat. As the newcomers were ushered ashore, one resident welcomed them by
playing "O Canada" on a trumpet, over and over. But four Indian women from
a nearby reservation protested, wearing placards that said "Feed our People
First."
   Hamilton believes the boat people are naive.
   "They come in blinded by a big dream that isn't here," she said. "They
are victims, as far as I'm concerned. As I watched their faces go by, some
of the young ones looked so hard already, and others looked bewildered. I
don't think they have a clue about what awaits them."
   Wong, of the Chinese Canadian association, said treating the newcomers
like criminals is a cruel thing to do to people seeking sanctuary from
persecution. While others contend that the boat people merely are trying to
escape poverty, Wong said most of the migrants have genuine concerns about
human rights abuses in China.
   "They're leaving to escape China's one-child policy," he said, referring
to the limits the communist government places on family size. "Or they're
trying to escape religious persecution. Some are Christians, and Christians
are known to be persecuted in Fujian Province. Or they're persecuted as an
ethnic minority."
   The Chinese government has urged Canada to return all the boat people to
China, to discourage illegal immigration.
   "There is no political persecution in China," Foreign Ministry spokesman
Sun Yuxi said Sept. 7 at a Beijing news briefing. "Most of these migrants
are farmers. They are not political refugees."
   Whatever their motives, they are likely to keep coming. The grapevine in
Vancouver's Chinatown has it that about a dozen boats had left Fujian
Province by early September, though the publicity surrounding the first
four boats may have diverted later vessels to other countries in search of
quieter landings.
   The navy, coast guard and Royal Canadian Mounted Police are on alert.
Officials say winter weather may temporarily stop the boat traffic, but
they're not counting on it. And navy officials concede they might not catch
every boat venturing across their area of responsibility, a storm-raked
656,000 square miles (1,679,360 square kilometers) of Pacific Ocean.
   "You're looking at an area the size of British Columbia, Alberta and
Saskatchewan put together," said navy spokesman Lt. David McKinnon.
   Authorities say none of the four recently arrived boats met minimal
safety standards for a long voyage.
   The third boat's hull was rusted so badly it appeared to be painted
orange, and officials quickly loaded its passengers onto other boats
because they feared the vessel might not make it the last few miles to
shore.
   The Pacific is wide, and its storms are fierce. Reimer, of the
immigration department, believes a rickety boat stuffed full of migrants
could leave China and easily disappear. If it did, she said, "people may
never know."


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