[Stop-traffic] News/EU: Meeting in Paris to plan fight against human trafficking

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/EU: Meeting in Paris to plan fight against human trafficking
From: Laura Rusu (rusul@hrw.org)
Date: Wed Jul 26 2000 - 09:55:37 EDT


Wednesday, July 19 7:48 PM SGT

Meeting in Paris to plan fight against human trafficking

PARIS, July 19 (AFP) -

A month after the deaths of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants being smuggled
into Britain, officials from
18 countries meet in Paris Thursday to co-ordinate efforts to fight
trafficking in human beings.

Brought together under the aegis of the French EU presidency, ministers
and officials will discuss
proposals to toughen punishments for organisers of the trade and
harmonise asylum laws in
European Union countries.

The ideas will be pursued by EU justice and interior ministers at an
informal meeting in Marseilles
next week.

Exactly a month ago, 58 Chinese men and women were found suffocated in
the back of a lorry at
Dover, in a tragic end to their cross-continental bid to seek a new life
in Britain.

"Illegal immigration ... has become part of large-scale organised crime.
It is easier, more profitable
and less risky than drug-smuggling. It is now a major focus for European
co-operation by police and
by the courts," French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said.

The minister set out three draft proposals for clamping down on illegal

- tougher penalties for transporters of immigrants, with a legal
obligation on them to check the
documents of third-country nationals.

- harmonisation of national laws on what constitutes trafficking in
humans, and the penalties it incurs.

- closer co-operation on expulsion, so that an immigrant identified as
illegal in one EU member state
can be arrested and deported from any other.

Ministry officials said another priority of the French presidency would
be to harmonise laws on the
right of asylum in member states, to make it harder for would-be
immigrants to lodge fake claims.

The number of asylum-seekers in France went up from 22,000 to 30,000 in
the year to 1999, and in
Britain from 48,000 to 71,000, but between 80 and 90 percent of demands
are in the end turned
down, officials said.

"The right of asylum is frequently abused by the criminal gangs as a
judicial tool to aid the entry of
immigrants ... The challenge is to reconcile respect for the Geneva
Convention on the protection of
refugees with the fight against fraudulent asylum-seeking," Chevenement

European police forces have identified Russian, Turkish and Albanian
gangs bringing in illegal
immigrants, apart from the Chinese organisation originally behind the
fatal incident at Dover on June

On June 30, French police uncovered a major Chinese trafficking network,
transporting illegal
immigrants through Austria or by direct flight to France, funded by a
Chinese money-laundering

Laura Ioana Rusu
Women's Rights Division
Human Rights Watch
1630 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-612-4350
Fax: 202-612-4333
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