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From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Oct 30 2000 - 09:49:02 EST

The ousted leader and his secret police were filtering illegal Chinese
migrants, through Yugoslavia, into EU countries and Britain, say
immigration officials

BRITAIN has gathered compelling evidence that ousted Yugoslav President
Slobadan Milosevic and his secret police and some army officers were
masterminds of the world's biggest human-trafficking ring.
They were filtering refugees from China, through Yugoslavia, into Germany,
Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Britain.
The illegal immigrants, paying up to [pound]15,000 (S$38,850) each, were
given visas to "work" in Yugoslavia by "snakeheads" working with Milosevic
and his henchmen.
"Kickbacks" of up to 50 per cent of each payment were repaid to the
disgraced ex-president and his cronies as part of the human-smuggling plot.
The refugees arrived from Beijing aboard Yugoslavia Airlines DC-10s, every
Monday and Friday. They were mainly men in their 20s, but also included
teenage girls and children.
The "ducks", as the refugees were called by the Yugoslavs, were taken to
rundown, high-rise buildings in the Jurija Gagarina Boulevard area of
Belgrade - the heart of a newly-emerging Chinatown.
Thirty-five refugees are often squeezed into a flat designed for five
In Milosevic's time, the refugees spent only a few weeks in Belgrade, while
"snakeheads" arranged their dispersal by trucks over mountainous terrain,
across poorly-controlled borders of war-wracked Yugoslavia.
The refugees were sent to various EU countries - but most aimed for
Britain, to claim political asylum or to disappear into the community.
It has emerged that this was the route taken by the 58 illegal Chinese
immigrants found suffocated to death in the back of a sealed refrigerator
lorry after it reached Dover in June.
British immigration officials told The Straits Times that their
intelligence had revealed that at least 25,000 Chinese refugees were now in
Belgrade, trying to get out to Britain and other EU countries.
They were living in an area called "Little Fujian", named after the Chinese
province where most of them come from.
To try to earn money as they wait to be taken out of Yugoslavia, scores had
set up small stalls in a former derelict shopping mall, known as Block 70,
in Belgrade.
They were selling clothes and fake goods to locals.
Britain was expected to ask Yugoslavia's new president Vojislav Kostunica
over the weekend to halt the flow of illegal Chinese immigrants through
Prime Minister Tony Blair was joined by Italian and other leaders in
holding private talks with President Kostunica in Biarritz, France.
On his first trip out of Belgrade since taking office last weekend, the new
Yugoslav President said on Saturday his top priority was rebuilding
Yugoslavia's shattered economy.
"The country is in such a bad shape" after eight years of international
sanctions and rampant corruption, he said.
During the informal summit, the 15 European Union leaders leaders agreed on
an emergency [pound]118 million winter aid package for Yugoslavia.
The money will be spent on medicine, heating oil, schools, food and winter
clothing - and it will be given without conditions.
But Britain and other countries will make it clear that future aid will
depend on Mr Kostunica sealing his borders against refugees.
In addition, EU leaders want him to make sure that the huge army of illegal
immigrants now in Belgrade is stopped from starting journeys to other
European countries.
If the new President gives a firm commitment on halting the flow of
refugees, it is understood the EU leaders will "reluctantly" accept his
refusal to hand over Milosevic to The Hague war crimes tribunal.
(c) 2000 Singapore Press Holdings Limited.
STRAITS TIMES 16/10/2000
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