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'Snakeheads' more cunning, say officials
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-22 06:10

More than 4,000 people who tried to illegally exit or enter China were arrested in the first half of this year, prompting authorities to signal their concern about human smugglers, called "snakeheads", who are becoming more and more cunning.

During the first half of 2005, statistics indicated that the exit and entry administration departments arrested 4,174 people in illegal attempts to enter or exit the country, and nabbed 95 suspects who organized, transported and helped illegal emigrants.

The figure for 2005 is expected to be higher than that of the previous year, which witnessed the seizure of 5,975 suspects in total.

"High intelligence, international collaboration and migration in groups are the three major traits of current illegal immigration crimes in China," Cui Zhikun, director of the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security, said yesterday.

To effectively combat illegal immigration, the director told reporters that China has set out to share information and co-ordinate work with its counterparts in the United States, France, Britain and the International Organization of Police.

The economic gap serves as a driving force behind illegal immigration, said Cui, adding that Chinese emigrants mainly select European and American countries as their destinations.

Illegal immigrants commonly use fake visas and passports after leaving the border with genuine ones. People also immigrate illegally by taking advantage of tours and work opportunities outside of the country and by studying abroad, according to Cui.

The ministry also publicized yesterday several major illegal immigration cases that have been uncovered so far this year.

In January 2005, the police department in Wenzhou of Zhejiang Province were informed that 23 illegal tourists were caught by the Italian Government.

After investigations, police found that a suspect, surnamed Zhang, and 10 others had illegally organized 230 Chinese citizens in 11 batches to travel to European countries under the pretense of tourism and commercial exchanges during the past several years.

Most of them still have not returned home after leaving the country, police said.

At the same time, China is also facing increasing illegal immigration in recent years, the official said.

"The rampant illegal employment and habitation of foreigners in some places have disturbed the normal order of public security," said Cui, who did not give more details.

The ministry's statistics showed that police have caught more than 63,000 foreigners who illegally entered, lived and worked in China during the past 10 years.

(China Daily 11/22/2005 page2)

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