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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 16:57, June 24, 2005
50,000 illegal Chinese immigrants miserable in Paris
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According to a report titled Chinese Immigrants Victims of Labour Exploitation in Paris released by International Labour Organisation (ILO) on June 21, tens of thousands of Chinese illegal immigrants hide themselves in Paris, capital of France, where many live and work in conditions of utter poverty and isolation. These illegal immigrants were smuggled into France by criminal gangs, and they must work for years to pay off the cost of their illegal journey.

Smuggled into France by criminal gangs, the Chinese men and women are forced into hard labour in French sweatshops and restaurants. Since many of them live in constant fear of being discovered by French Police and sent back to China, they never leave their homes.

The ILO report puts the number of Chinese illegal immigrants in France at 50,000: 70 percent of them living in Paris, and the remaining in the eastern and northern France.

"Few of them could get minimum treatment from their employers. They are in miserable conditions and vulnerable to abuse," noted Gao Yun, co-author of the ILO report.

The language barrier prevents them from seeking outside help or getting in touch with the organisations providing aid to victims of forced labours. Work inspectors and policemen noted few of them have complained.

Because of the difficult domestic economic restructuring in China, the illegal Chinese immigrants came to France in large numbers 10 to 15 years ago. Most of them were from rural areas in China and received little education at home. Paris is the gathering place for these illegal immigrants.

Life for those who are fortunate enough to arrive in France is usually rather tough. They have been forced to work in harsh conditions so as to pay off the cost of journey. Meanwhile they are always on tenterhooks about the possible repatriation by French authority.

Since it is almost impossible to get French visas, the Chinese illegal immigrants mainly rely on underground networks of people-smugglers who charge 14,500 to 24,000 US dollars for the journey and the immigrants need spend two to ten years to pay it off.

People-smugglers take the ID cards away from the illegal immigrants at the beginning of the voyage and hand them to their employers in Paris. The traffickers will take part of immigrants' salary of the immigrants as their rewards.

Most of the illegal immigrants work in the sectors of cloth-manufacturing, restaurants and construction, where they earn between 300 to 500 euros per month for work up to 18 hours a day. Avaricious employers continue to exploit the workers even after they have paid off the debt.

To avoid the exposure to the French inspectors, employers divide the workers into hundreds of home-based units, separating them from the outside world. "I have visited some so-called families where there are two to three children living with their parents in a condition of total secrecy," added Gao.

The original intention of Chinese immigrants to leave home is complicated. Fujian province, being the home of many illegal immigrants, is actually not the poorest region in China. However, many youngsters there still hope to find better jobs with handsome income elsewhere, so their living conditions can be improved. They are driven by a kind of complex economic and social motive.

Now the first destination for Chinese immigrants has shifted to Europe from the US, simply because the cost of smuggling Chinese immigrants to the US is twice higher than that to Europe. Additionally, it is generally believed that applicants for refuge-seeking will receive more generous treatment in European countries. Illegal immigrants are therefore willing to endure traffickers' tough treatment, or even fall into the miserable condition in order to reach such European country as the UK.

By People's Daily Online

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