Honduran drug connection probed

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Subject: Honduran drug connection probed
From: Bruce Harris - Casa Alianza (bruce@casa-alianza.org)
Date: Tue Feb 08 2000 - 10:12:47 EST


The following article is from The Vancouver Sun newspaper in
Vancouver BC,
one of Canada's most respected dailies. Its website is at
http://www.vancouversun.com.

Honduran drug connection probed

A Spanish-language TV network says the arrival of young dealers in
Canada
threatens child welfare in Latin America.

Chad Skelton, Sun Immigration Reporter Vancouver Sun

The problem of young Hondurans coming to Vancouver to deal
drugs has
become big news in Latin America as the government in Honduras
comes under
increasing pressure to stop the exploitation of its children by drug
cartels.
Last Thursday night, Univision -- the largest Spanish-language TV
network
in the Americas -- broadcast a special report on the problem.
The Miami-based network interviewed Honduran government
officials and
child-welfare advocates in Central America for a segment on its late-
night
news magazine Noticiero Univision: Ultima Hora.
Meanwhile, officials in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa have told
reporters they are doing what they can do stop the problem.
But in an article published in the newspaper El Heraldo, the
government
said it is having difficulty responding to the issue because Canadian
authorities will not provide them with the information they need.
Francisco Martinez, consular affairs chief of the Honduran foreign
relations ministry, was quoted as saying that Canadian authorities
have
been unwilling to provide details about the Hondurans arrested in
Vancouver on drug charges, many of whom have claimed refugee
status.
Immigration Canada usually does not provide information to foreign
governments about those who have made refugee claims in Canada,
because
providing such information could put legitimate refugees or their
families
at risk.
Casa Alianza -- the Latin American arm of the child-welfare group
Covenant
House -- estimates that 200 Honduran children have been brought
north to
deal drugs in Vancouver, most by Colombian drug cartels.
While Honduras says it is doing what it can to stop the problem, the
head
of Casa Alianza has his doubts.
"Honduras, as a country, is basically turning its back on these
children,"
Bruce Harris, Casa Alianza's regional director for Latin American
programs, said in an interview from his offices in Costa Rica.
The involvement of Honduran children in Vancouver's drug trade has
been a
matter of some debate.
In 1998, immigration authorities apprehended seven Honduran
children aged
11 to 15 who were being used as drug couriers -- including an 11-
year-old
boy sent to hospital after swallowing 28 rocks of crack cocaine.
But incidents like that are rare and most dealers picked up by police
have
been young adults. Immigration authorities say only a handful of the
hundreds of Honduran refugee claimants in Vancouver are minors.
But the involvement of Honduran teenagers and adults in the drug
trade is
clear.
In a recent police crackdown in the Lower Mainland, 63 of 157
people
wanted by police for drug dealing were refugee claimants, most from
Honduras.
The number of Honduran refugee claims made in Vancouver has
jumped from 37
in 1996 to 257 last year.
Only a small minority of those claims are found to be legitimate by
the
Immigration and Refugee Board.
Of the 337 Honduran refugee claims completed in Vancouver in
1999, only 18
(five per cent) were accepted as refugees and 91 (27 per cent) were
rejected. Another 207 (61 per cent) failed to show up for their
hearings.
Twenty-one claims were voluntarily withdrawn.

--------------------------------------------
Casa Alianza/Covenant House Latin America
SJO 1039
PO Box 025216, Miami FL 33102-5216 USA

Tel. in Costa Rica: +506-253-5439 or 253-6338
Fax in Costa Rica: +506-224-5689

Home page address: http://www.casa-alianza.org

-------------------------------
"In their little worlds in which children have their existence,
there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt,
as injustice...."

Charles Dickens, "Great Expectations"


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