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Co-operation key to stopping human smuggling
( 2004-01-19 23:18) (China Daily)

Both mainland and Taiwanese authorities are seeking a closer partnership in curbing rampant human trafficking by Taiwanese smugglers across the Taiwan Straits.

Wang Bing, deputy chief of staff of the Fujian Provincial Frontier Defence Troops, said an effective mechanism is badly needed to facilitate a joint crackdown on cross-Straits human smuggling.

"Currently, there is only non-governmental co-ordination between both sides, due to the absence of official links,'' Wang said.

He added that Red Cross organizations from across the Straits are now entrusted to handle the repatriation of mainland people smuggled to the island.

In an interview with China Daily, Chen Hsueh-sheng, head of Taiwan's Lianjiang County, also vowed to beef up efforts to hit hard at human traffickers.

To cope with an increasing number of illegal immigrants from the mainland, the county has set up two accommodation centres that can hold a total of 496 people.

Chen Cheng-ching, "legislative speaker'' of the county, said that more than 2,240 illegal mainland immigrants were sent back to their hometowns last year.

Accommodation centres in Taiwan's Xinzhu and Yilan counties are still holding 2,048 mainlanders smuggled to the island, according to Chen Cheng-ching.

He said that hundreds of mainland women are lured to Taiwan every year by promises of high-paying jobs, but they usually end up in prostitution.

The lawmakers noted that illegal immigrants come from over 20 provinces and autonomous regions on the mainland, with women accounting for a bigger proportion.

Each illegal immigrant has to pay between 18,600 yuan and 20,000 yuan (US$2,240 and US$2,400) to Taiwan's people smugglers, known as "snakehead'' gangs, for the boat ride to try to sneak into the island.

Cross-Straits human smuggling was in the spotlight in late August last year, when 26 smuggled mainland women were dumped overboard by Taiwanese traffickers near Tunghisao on the island's west coast.

Six of them drowned, while the other 20 were later rescued in the incident.

Mainland authorities have been urging Taipei to take effective and prompt actions in eliminating human trafficking to the island so as to avoid the recurrence of such incidents.

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