News/Canada: Chinese youths hiding in van held at border

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Subject: News/Canada: Chinese youths hiding in van held at border
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 16:48:02 EST


Does anybody know what happened to these children?

melanie....

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Chinese youths hiding in van held at border
U.S. officials arrest Chatham man
By Randy Richmond and Kelley Teahen
London Free Press, February 3, 2000

LONDON ONT. -- A 22-year-old Chatham man has been arrested after nine young
Chinese migrants were found hiding in a van crossing from Windsor to Detroit.

Shannon Yoell, 22, is in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS), said Brian Slonac, head INS anti-smuggling
agent in Detroit.

The six male and three female migrants, ranging in age from 15 to 23, were
found at 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, Slonac said yesterday.

"They were just lying in the back of the van," Slonac said.

Police suspect other Chatham residents are involved and wonder if the city
has become a transfer point for smuggling migrants, he said.

While all nine were refused legal entry to the U.S., a male migrant, age
23, and a female migrant, age 19, were being held by U.S. authorities in
Detroit as witnesses, Slonac said. The other seven, ages 15 to 17, are in
custody in Windsor.

The seven -- two girls and five boys -- were returned to Canada at 10 p.m.
Tuesday, said Ken Lawrence, Ontario West regional manager of Citizenship
and Immigration Canada.

Because no officers or translators were available at that hour, the seven
were held until yesterday for questioning, when officials interviewed four
-- three males and one female -- who originally claimed to be 18. After
questioning, they said they are either 16 or 17.

These four "have been reported as inadmissable to Canada" because they have
no passports or visas, Lawrence said. He expects a similar finding for the
remaining three, to be interviewed today. Officials don't know how the
young people, who all say they're from China, got to Canada or into
Southwestern Ontario.

It appears the driver was handed the migrants in Chatham, Slonac said,
adding the driver was to take them to New York City.

Slonac said there's no way of knowing if this latest arrest is connected to
smuggling activity at Walpole Island, near Chatham-Kent. Nine residents of
the island, a native reserve, have been charged and four others convicted
of smuggling charges since May.

But as with a Jan. 5 arrest near Walpole Island, when the 10 Chinese teens
were found, the migrants' ages in this case caught the attention of
authorities.

"This is remarkable," Lawrence said. "We don't normally deal with groups
(of migrants) this large or this age."

"It's odd they were juveniles," Slonac said. Until the Jan. 5 arrest, many
illegal migrant groups caught were made up of families, immigration
officials said.

The Jan. 5 arrest also involved a transfer in Chatham, police suspect.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Bill Erickson said he was troubled by allegations the
former city of Chatham is becoming a frequent stopover in the human
smuggling pipeline.

"It doesn't concern me for my community safety, but it bothers me as a
Canadian that we have people living among us who feel they can make money
off this."

Tuesday's arrest came about when a border official wasn't satisfied with
the answers given by a van's driver and had the van pulled over, after it
had crossed the Detroit River via the Ambassador Bridge.

"There were so many migrants, as soon as inspectors opened the door, they
could see them," Slonac said, adding that most smuggling attempts have
taken place at night.

A midday border crossing "was like a crapshoot, just trying to take a
shot," he said.

The van found was not registered to the driver, but Slonac wouldn't
identify the owner.

The migrants had no paperwork and carried only enough clothing to fill one
plastic bag, he said. A small amount of U.S. money was also found on the
migrants, who remain in detention.

Like the 10 Chinese girls found Jan. 5, the seven youths found Tuesday will
appear at an inquiry and a detention review, but dates haven't been set.
Canadian officials will deal with the male, 23, and female, 19 -- now held
by the U.S. as witnesses -- when they are released and returned to Windsor.

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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