[Stop-traffic] News/US: U.S. Says Money Drives Human Trafficking From China

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: U.S. Says Money Drives Human Trafficking From China
From: Jyothi Kanics (jyothi@odihr.osce.waw.pl)
Date: Tue Jul 11 2000 - 22:25:14 EDT


Monday July 3 8:22 AM ET

  U.S. Says Money Drives Human Trafficking From
  China

  By Paul Eckert

  BEIJING (Reuters) - China has helped curb the flow of ships
carrying illegal Chinese
  immigrants, but human traffickers are changing routes and
methods in pursuit of growing
  profits, the top U.S. immigration official said on Monday.

  ``The trafficking in those large ships that were very dangerous has
pretty much been
  thwarted'' -- in part due to help from China in repatriating
passengers, said Immigration and
  Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Doris Meissner.

  ``But what we know about smuggling is that the smuggling adjusts
and shifts very quickly,''
  she told reporters in Beijing.

                          She said the global reach of human trafficking
networks was
                          ''horrifically demonstrated'' last month when 58
Chinese
                          illegal immigrants were found suffocated in the
hold of a
                          tomato truck while trying to sneak into Britain
from the
                          Netherlands.

  Meissner and a dozen other INS officials were due to travel to
coastal Fujian province,
  source of the 58 dead and where illegal emigration was a deep-
seated tradition.

  The convoluted route the ill-fated Fujianese took -- through the
former Soviet states and
  Eastern Europe -- underscored the adaptability and sophistication
of smugglers.

  Fighting human traffickers ``is more difficult because the groups
are smaller and the routes
  are more widespread,'' she said.

  She estimated that while the United States had repatriated 1,000
Chinese who had come
  illegally by boat in the past year, it had sent back 2,700 who had
come by air in the year to
  date and that number was expected to reach 4,000 by the end of
this year.

  The INS has estimated that 30,000 Chinese illegal aliens sneak
into the United States each
  year.

  Chinese Prices Highest In World

  Driving the traffic were prices for smuggling Chinese that were the
highest among the world's
  migrants, Meissner said.

  Chinese smuggling was in a category of its own in terms of ''the
amounts of money and the
  level of organization and the level of criminality and extortion and
abuse that is involved,'' she
  said.

  She said the price for Chinese passage to the United States had
risen to about $50,000
  person from $30,000 a few years ago.

  Others have said Chinese pay up to $60,000 each to become
stowaways bound for North
  America, Europe or Australia, where many end up enslaved in
sweatshops or brothels
  paying off the smugglers, known as ``snakeheads,'' who organize
their passage.

  Many analysts have pointed to official collusion with the
snakeheads, especially in Fujian,
  which is in the midst of investigating China's biggest ever
corruption case -- a goods
  smuggling ring touching high provincial and national officials.

  Meissner said the scale of the human trafficking network raised
serious questions about
  official connivance.

  ``The larger the operators, the more likely it is that they have to be
getting some help from
  officials along the way,'' she said. ``That of course always raises
the issue of corruption.''

  ``We've gotten good cooperation case-by-case, but it is very much
case-by-case,'' she said
  of China's anti-snakehead fight.

  Fujian Tackles Embarrassment

  Official Chinese figures show 10,000 illegal emigrants were caught
last year, 80 percent
  from Fujian. There are no reliable estimates of the number who
make it safely to the West.

  Jean Christiansen, Bangkok-based INS regional director for Asia,
said the agency's office in
  the southern city of Guangzhou was getting increasingly better
help from Fujian authorities.

  ``Right now they do have boats patrolling the coasts and they are
being very effective -- we
  haven't seen a boat this year,'' she said.

  ``They are embarrassed by this. They don't want to see it happen
and they're working to
  stop it,'' Christiansen said.
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