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Boat capsize kills dozens of stowaways enroute to US
By Tong Hao (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-20 10:17

FUZHOU: Local police in the country's eastern Fujian province are investigating a report of a capsized boat that allegedly killed dozens of people from the province who were trying to reach the United States illegally.

The accident happened when an illegal ship, carrying about 70 stowaways from Fujian, overturned at the Caribbean Sea near Haiti enroute to the US, the US-based China Press, a Chinese language newspaper, reported Sunday.

Dozens of people on board died, including more than 10 from Fujian's Langqi county and others from Changle, Lianjiang, Guantou and other counties in the province.

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The report did not specify when and why the accident occurred.

A director of Langqi's police bureau, surnamed Lin, said Monday they are aware of the report and have sent a few officers to the county to investigate.

A consul with China's Consulate-General in New York surnamed Wang also said Monday that the consulate is working to verify the cause of the accident.

"We attach great importance to the tragedy and are verifying details," Wang said.

Lin from Langqi said the Caribbean area is a common route for people trying to go to the US. "However, natural conditions in that area are very complicated and boats turn over very easily," he said.

In July at least two were killed and 85 went missing after a boat carrying 200 Haitian migrants capsized in the Caribbean Sea.

China Press quoted sources as saying that the organizer of the illegal migration was a man surnamed Chen of Fuzhou, provincial capital of Fujian, who has been undertaking the illegal transits for more than 10 years.

After the accident, Chen reportedly tried to offer 450,000 yuan ($65,000) to each victim's family, aiming to keep them quiet about his illegal business. Some families accepted his offer while others refused.

Residents in Langqi and other places in Fujian often attempt to migrate to foreign countries through legal or illegal ways.

The migration routes to the US mainly include flights; on land, across the border of Mexico; and by sea, in the Caribbean area. A major reason for their migration, according to director Lin, is to "make a living."

To travel from Fujian to the US, each person pays the organizer of the illegal trip about $80,000, said Steven Wong, executive chairman of General Council of Chinese Communities, based in the US.

However, many migrants are treated badly by organizers, according to Wong. Some people who do successfully steal into the US can live miserable lives, Wong said. Often they are forced to work more than 10 hours a day, six days a week and live in a small room with 10 or 20 people.

During the first five months this year, US authorities arrested 969 illegal migrants from China, Beijing TV reported. In 2009, the total number was 836.