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Friday, August 04, 2000, updated at 19:09(GMT+8)

China Cracks Down on Illegal Immigration

The Chinese government is determined to take immediate measures to intensify the strike against illegal immigration following June 20's case of 58 Chinese stowaways suffocated to death in an airtight truck of tomatoes at Dover, England.

Over the past two years, illegal immigration has skyrocketed, especially from the coastal province of Fujian, the latest weekly of Beijing Review reported.

The destinations of the immigrants are varied, but are mainly the United States, Canada and Australia, the weekly said.

From December 15, 1999 to March 15 this year, police and frontier defense army in Fujian conducted a special operation focusing on seeking out the snakeheads, punishing the criminals, cleaning up the ports and strengthening security.

Wu Jiansen, captain of Fujian public security and frontier defense army, catalogued the accomplishments of the operation.

Many stowaways and organizers were caught. Among the 207 captured criminals, 89 people were arrested, 88 detained, one reformed through labor and 29 punished through other means.

The Fuzhou public security and frontier defense army discovered 14 organizers of illegal immigration in 1999. Police in Putian City dispersed three family-organized immigration gangs, and arrested the rampant snakehead Wen Jinshun.

The impetus of illegal immigration has been checked. During the special operation, only 22 stowaways were discovered in Fujian, 95.5 percent less than the year-earlier figure of 490.

In particular, through its special measures, the local government put an end to the large-scale illegal immigration taking place in the coastal areas of Fujian on ocean-going ships.

However, illegal immigration is still rampant, the weekly said. The major reason for this is that main collaborators on the mainland collude with those abroad, making the business of helping illegal immigrants an international dealing.

There are other reasons contributing to this phenomenon, such as the increasingly clever and clandestine methods employed by the criminals, the high profits involved and the non-interference of other countries, which often welcome the illegal immigrants into their countries as "refugees," said Beijing Review.

These all aid the illegal immigrants and make it more difficult for the Chinese government to take definitive action, it noted.

With each illegal immigration operation, there will be one head snakehead in charge of the entire process. Usually, the forerunners will first go abroad and obtain green cards from other countries involved in the operation.

The snakeheads will then look for clients. In order to attract the would-be illegal immigrants, the head snakehead will not ask for too much money up front; the "traveling fee" is paid gradually with the snakeheads taking all the risks.

Under the head snakehead there are always several dozens of lower-level snakeheads who control their respective links in the entire chain operation.

Organizing the illegal immigration operations is a profitable profession, giving the snakeheads the incentive to risk imprisonment.

The snakeheads will negotiate with their clients as to how much the entire trip will cost. The prices fluctuate depending on the economic and employment situation in the destination country.

The profits of the snakeheads are tremendous as an illegal immigrant to Britain has to pay some 210,000 yuan (25,000 US dollars). If only 30 percent of the immigration activities are successful, they will still make a considerable income, Beijing Review reported.

The total cost of traveling to Britain is actually only 60,000 to 70,000 yuan, leaving the head snakeheads with a profit of about 140,000 to 150,000 yuan.

The Dover case involved perhaps two or three head snakeheads. The snakeheads usually work separately, but will cooperate when there are extremely large profits involved.

Given the high profits involved, it is understandable why the snakeheads are willing to risk imprisonment. However, their incentive makes it more difficult for the police to eliminate these activities.

Despite these challenges, the Chinese government will not slacken in its efforts, the weekly said. Wu Jiansen has indicated that the situation with illegal immigration in Fujian Province is serious and the task of eliminating it is formidable.

At present, the entire province is laying special emphasis on seeking out the organizers, the main collaborators at home and abroad, the would-be illegal immigrants and the snakeheads.

With the heavy blows dealt by the Chinese government against illegal immigration and the tragic lesson learned from the Dover immigrants, illegal immigration will abate, according to the weekly.

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The Chinese government is determined to take immediate measures to intensify the strike against illegal immigration following June 20's case of 58 Chinese stowaways suffocated to death in an airtight truck of tomatoes at Dover, England.

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