[Stop-traffic] NEWS/TURKEY: IMMIGRANTS' PLIGHT HIGHLIGHTS GLOBAL PROBLEM.

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] NEWS/TURKEY: IMMIGRANTS' PLIGHT HIGHLIGHTS GLOBAL PROBLEM.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Jan 31 2001 - 09:18:51 EST


04Jan01 TURKEY: IMMIGRANTS' PLIGHT HIGHLIGHTS GLOBAL PROBLEM.
4 JANUARY 2001

Immigrants' plight highlights global problem
Smuggling in human beings is nothing but a modern-day slavery for many
experts. They are forced into sex trade or servitude in homes, factories
and fields in the destination countries
There are two ways to become an illegal immigrant: in the first, you get a
tourist visa and enter a Western country and then illegally overstay when
your visa expires. But there is a second way for those who are unable to
become an illegal immigrant in this way. These people cannot even get a
tourist visa from the Western countries because they come from poor and
war-torn countries
UN authorities estimate that human trafficking generated some $1.5-2
billion annually at the beginning of the 1990s but now, it is in the range
of $8-9 billion annually in profits to the criminal gangs involved. One can
say a new and highly profitable market for the criminals has already
emerged

The sinking of the Georgian-registered dry cargo ship, Pati, off southern
Turkey on Monday, resulting in the tragic deaths of around 50 would-be
immigrants, was the latest terrifying event drawing attention to the
problem of human smuggling, called by some experts as "modern-day slavery."
An official inquiry into where and how these people, some 73 illegal
immigrants from such countries as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran, is
continuing since officials in the southern Mediterranean province of
Antalya say that the ship left the port empty.
Turkey is a popular stop for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants
from the impoverished and war-torn countries in Asia and the Middle East on
their route to Western Europe. Greece is the next stop on the route of
illegal immigration and the final destination is rich countries of Western
Europe.
But the route from Turkey and Greece to Europe is only a small part of the
global human smuggling scheme. It is not only Western Europe that is an
attractive destination for the poor people of Asian countries. The United
States is even a more popular dream than Europe for the illegal immigrants
who pay a fortune to the human smugglers, dubbed "snakeheads."
Snakeheads are professional, and usually Chinese, human smugglers. They are
known for their cruelty to their clients, the impoverished and desperate
people of Asia seeking a better life in the West.
Human smuggling is a serious problem to be dealt with through a global
effort, though such an effort is still far from emerging. A formal
definition of this modern-day crime reads "organized migrant trafficking
activities of criminal syndicates who use a variety of methods and routes
to arrange migrants to enter other countries illegally."
Some experts point out that the problem will persist on the global agenda
as long as some countries have a labor surplus while others have a
shortage. It also has an economic dimension with the problem of unfair
income distribution at the global level at its heart. Civil wars, political
pressure and oppression and poverty force hundreds of thousands of people
from Asian, African and Middle East countries to the wealthy countries of
the West. It is a fact that some of these richer countries have a degree of
man power shortage, mainly as a result of low birth rates, and that the
immigrant-sender countries have a labor surplus. Yet, this is not enough to
tip a natural equilibrium of man power at a global level. There is also
public opinion in the wealthy Western countries that prevents a warm
welcome for the "ignorant, illiterate and poor" immigrants.
There are two ways to become an illegal immigrant: In the first, you get a
tourist visa and enter a Western country and then illegally overstay when
your visa expires. But there is a second way for those who are unable to
become an illegal immigrant in this way. These people cannot even get a
tourist visa from the Western countries because they come from poor and
war-torn countries. In this case, they can either procure false documents
to enter the country or opt for a more dangerous alternative, that is being
smuggled into the desired destination.
Human smuggling has grown in scale and turned into a serious global problem
particularly in the last decade, the age of globalization. The free-market
economy and liberalization of markets brought forward the free movement of
goods and capital but not that of people. In fact, it was an element of the
global market economy, just like free movement of goods and capital. But
states insisted on not allowing a free movement of people, since there
would be social and political consequences.
Laws regulating entry of foreigners are tight and governments set out
strict requirements to grant someone asylum. According to experts, strict
laws create two impacts: first, it exacerbates the problem of human
smuggling, since there is no way for a legal entry, and second, if the
measures to prevent entry are really tight, smugglers look for other,
easier destinations. That is, strict laws hardly count for something to
combat human smuggling.
One may suggest at that point that governments ease the restrictions on
entry of foreigners. But in real life, politicians and policy-makers face a
tough dilemma, since such a move would not be welcomed by their
electorates.
Annual profit to smugglers at $9 billion
A series of factors contributed to the growth of human smuggling beginning
from the early 1990s. In addition to the effects of the globalization and
the new liberal world economy stated above, the problem is further
complicated even more by the involvement of organized criminal gangs using
extremely sophisticated methods and `international' ties to illegally
transport their clients to Western countries.
Another factor escalating the problem was the dissolution of the Soviet
Union and the Eastern Bloc at the beginning of the 1990s. The fall of the
Eastern Bloc created the possibility for an ever-easier entry into Western
Europe. It also led to the tremendous growth of human smuggling, with a
demand emerging from the people from the Eastern Bloc arising after an
encounter with Western Europe. A last point to be made is that the entrance
of criminal gangs from the old Soviet bloc sparked a major upsurge in human
trafficking over the last decade.
All these factors contributed to a skyrocketing of the human smuggling.
U.N. authorities estimate that human trafficking generated some $1.5-2
billion annually at the beginning of the 1990s but now, it is in the range
of $8-9 billion annually in profits to the criminal gangs involved. One can
say a new and highly profitable market for the criminals has already
emerged.
One should also keep in mind that a serious crackdown on drug smuggling was
somehow associated with the rise of human smuggling in recent years. Some
experts point out that as a result of the effective measures against drug
trafficking, international routes previously used in drug smuggling began
to be used in human smuggling, turning impoverished people of Asia and
Africa into a "new commodity" for the smugglers previously making profit
out of drug sales. For organized crime groups, this implies the transfer of
knowledge, facilities and networks used for smuggling drugs and other goods
to a newly emerging, highly profitable market of human smuggling.
Owing to the long experience in drug trafficking, governments have enacted
strict drug laws and developed effective methods of law enforcement, but
faced with the newly emerging problem of human smuggling, they have only
limited measures. The laws on human smuggling, contrary to drug laws, are
either nonexistent or very weak and poorly enforced.
Plight of illegal immigrants and human rights aspect
The exploitative nature of the treatment of the victims of trafficking
often amounts to new forms of slavery, experts comment. The plight of
desperately poor people and abuses of their human rights start during the
transportation process. To make the maximum profit out of a human smuggling
scheme, smugglers usually prefer the cheapest form of transport they can
find. They pack either containers or boats with many people.
This is how the world has finally become aware of the tragedy of human
smuggling. Not only the most recent ship accident in southern Turkey, but
many similar tragic events resulting in the deaths of hundreds of illegal
immigrants have occurred over the last years in several parts of the world,
in either mountain borders or seas or inside the trucks supposed to
transfer them to rich Western countries. Some 58 Chinese were found dead in
a refrigerator truck in Dover, gateway to Great Britain and a favored
destination for undocumented migrants. Earlier this year, three lifeless
Chinese were discovered in a shipping container in Seattle, their hellish
home during a two-week voyage across the Pacific Ocean. And in 1993, a
freighter named the Golden Venture ran aground near New York City with
nearly 300 Chinese stowaways, 10 of whom drowned trying to swim ashore.
Many similar deaths go unpublished.
But human rights abuses are not solely confined to the process of
transporting and smuggling. Problems do not come to an end for those people
who survive the tough, long and miserable travel; they face even more
severe ones. The people who are brought into another country could be seen
as parties to a criminal transaction. In reality, however, people smuggled
by organized crime groups are often victimized economically, physically or
otherwise. They are often deceived about the destination country and
sometimes forced to engage in prostitution or criminal activities in the
destination country in order to pay for the expenses incurred. Reports
indicate that a majority of those people smuggled into western countries
are treated like slaves by the organized crime gangs there. The U.S. State
Department estimates that around 1 million people are trafficked annually,
though experts say it could be double that and a majority of these people
are forced into sex trade or servitude in homes, factories and fields.
Solution lies in global effort
The usual measure taken by states against human smuggling can be said to
target those smuggled and not the criminal gangs transporting them.
"Although there are many mass media reports on these problems and an
increasing number of local case studies," says a report called Global
Program Against Trafficking in Human Beings prepared by the Center for
International Crime Prevention of the U.N.'s Interregional Crime and
Justice Research Institute. There is no overview of the size, nature and
development of organized crime involvement. The lack of such an overview
hampers the design and subsequent adoption and funding of effective
national and international strategies. In many countries the smuggling of
human beings is not effectively controlled and prevented. Government
policies and the practices of border control, immigration, police and
justice agencies often concentrate on the illegal aspects of migration,
leaving aside the involvement of organized criminal groups in the smuggling
of human beings."
Many countries do not have effective policies designed to combat
trafficking in human beings, according to the same report. "They concede
that their legislation does not provide up-to-date regulations to deal with
such trafficking, particularly activities carried out by transnational
criminal organizations. Moreover, national policies do not provide the
effective tools with which to dismantle organized crime structures and
their transnational alliances, to cut their profit margins and to
counteract attempts to diversify supply. Investigations of the higher
levels of organized criminal groups involved in trafficking in human beings
often lack the necessary linkages to strategies against corruption and
bribery."
Despite the fact that many other countries have recognized that the problem
of immigrant smuggling exists, international cooperation to combat the
smuggling has yet to emerge. Experts draw attention to that receiving
countries are often unwilling to share intelligence with immigrant-sending
countries because evidence exists to show that government corruption in
these sending countries contributes to the problem. Receiving countries
fear that the information shared with sending countries will eventually be
passed to the smugglers themselves.
Given the strong criminal element involved in smuggling operations, an
international commitment to combat immigrant smuggling clearly is the best
strategy to be implemented.
In the U.N. Millennium Summit held in September, world leaders committed
themselves to act together to combat human smuggling. "We will spare no
effort to free our peoples from the scourge of war, whether within or
between states, which has claimed more than 5 million lives in the past
decade. We will also seek to eliminate the dangers posed by weapons of mass
destruction," said the Summit Declaration, continuing "... we resolve,
therefore to intensify our efforts to fight transnational crime in all its
dimensions, including trafficking as well as smuggling in human beings and
money laundering."
Time will show how the governments act in line with this commitment to
develop an effective and collective fight against human smuggling. One can
easily see that human smuggling, a global problem, should be on the global
agenda, if it is to be handled.
(c) The Turkish Daily News (TDN).
TURKISH DAILY NEWS 04/01/2001
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