News/Canada: Canada's immigration minister calls illegal immigration 'akin to slavery'

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Subject: News/Canada: Canada's immigration minister calls illegal immigration 'akin to slavery'
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Mon Jun 26 2000 - 08:00:14 EDT

Canada's immigration minister calls illegal immigration 'akin to slavery'
Paul Mooney
Canadian Press, April 26, 2000

BEIJING (CP) - Federal Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan denounced the
growing trade in illegal immigrants as "akin to human slavery" in a speech
Tuesday to the Canada China Business Council.

"Neither Canada nor China can afford to tolerate these criminal practices,"
Caplan said in remarks aimed at improving efforts to shut the door on
illegal immigration.

By cramming hundreds of illegal immigrants on rickety cargo ships,
smugglers "place countless lives in danger and undermine public confidence
in both our immigration and refugee programs, and in the many close ties
that our countries enjoy," Caplan said.

She vowed that Canada would "adopt tough new measures to deal with those
who would abuse its immigration and refugee system."

"By closing the back door to human smugglers and traffickers, we can ensure
that the front door remains open to immigrants and genuine refugees."

Caplan said Canada was also working with Chinese officials to co-ordinate
efforts and that she was visiting China to "observe first-hand" the
initiatives China's Public Security and Frontier Defence officials are
taking to halt the illegal traffic.

On Wednesday, she travels to Fujian province, the jumping off point for
many of the refugees who attempt to illegally emigrate to Canada, the
United States and Australia.

In Fujian, Caplan will meet the provincial governor and the head of the
Fujian Public Security Bureau and also discuss with local Chinese officials
measures being adopted in Canada.

She said she would also attempt to convey to Chinese people the risks of
illegal immigration.

"I am travelling to Fujian to do what I can to warn young people there
about what snakeheads have in store for them, and about the dangers of
placing their futures in the hands of snakeheads," said Caplan, referring
to the Chinese name used for human smugglers.

"It's important that I not only meet with local mayors and officials, but
also that the local media report on this," she said.

The minister said the debt taken on by individuals to pay for illegal
passage abroad - said to run as high as $60,000 US - typically had to be
repaid "over a short and cruel lifetime of illicit activity, sexual
exploitation and forced labour."

"Of course, some never make it at all; they simply perish in transit," she
said. The minister pointed to recent reports in the international media
which said that a boat carrying as many as 220 smuggled migrants had
disappeared was believed to have sunk in the Indian Ocean.

Caplan expressed satisfaction with the efforts of the Chinese to curtail
the number of people leaving the country illegally, reporting that China
had imprisoned some 250 snakeheads last year and that an additional 180 had
been detained.

The Chinese have also beefed up security with the establishment of a new,
10,000-member marine police force patrolling coastal waters.

Among new measures being adopted in Canada, Caplan cited a bill she
introduced April 6 to bring about a comprehensive reform of the country's
immigration and refugee program that would include up to life imprisonment
and fines up to $1 million Cdn for migrant trafficking.

Four ships with some 600 Chinese nationals landed off the coast of British
Columbia last year. About 100 of the migrants have since been returned to

Australia saw 86 boats arrive in 1999, with a total 3,600 people, while the
United States has intercepted some 20 ships over the last two years,
carrying some 1,200 people.

Caplan said she was saddened by her visit to detention centres in British
Columbia, where she saw detainees of last summer's boats, "the naive
Chinese nationals who put their lives at risk by selling their futures to
the traffickers."

"I remember the fear and the frustration of these young people, many of
them just children, as they waited in detention for an uncertain future,"
said Caplan.

Caplan said that since human smuggling and trafficking were problems of
international scope, international solutions were required.

To that end, Canada has assumed a leading role in working with other
countries to develop a United Nations convention to combat transnational
organized crime, and a related protocol on migrant smuggling.
Melanie Orhant <<>>
Stop-traffic is facilitated, international electronic list
funded by the Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.
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