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Border police nab thousands of stowaways
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-25 01:07

Police have arrested 5,286 stowaways and 444 snakeheads after a five-month, nationwide investigation.

More than 16,000 illegal foreign migrants have also been repatriated, sources with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) said Wednesday in Beijing.

"Illegal immigration of Chinese citizens and cross-border crimes, such as smuggling of guns and drugs, began to rebound in last September," said Chen Weiming, director of the MPS' Bureau of Frontier Administration, at a news conference. "So the MPS launched a special operation to fight crimes along the borders between October 10 and March 10."

"It is of great importance to arrest the snakeheads when combating against stowaway activities during the campaign," Chen said.

On October 15, Jilin frontier police in Northeast China cracked an explosion and murder case and arrested 99 suspects, including dozens of stowaway organizers and snakeheads from the United States, South Korea and China, he said.

During the campaign, Chinese frontier police also strengthened land and sea frontier checks as well inspections at port, Chen said.

The frontier defence police conducted more patrols and supervision on key sections of the 22,000-kilometre-long land border to prevent the exit and entry of illegal migrants.

For example, last October, frontier defence forces in Southwest China's Yunnan Province foiled a large-scale people-smuggling case and captured 52 stowaways and seven snakeheads from Fujian and Anhui provinces.

Fujian was once one of the major sources of smuggled humans in China.

To fight against human smuggling at sea, public security departments enhanced administration on the management of fishing boats as well enlarged patrol and inspection areas, Chen said.

On port inspection, frontier police strengthened exit and entry inspections to curb the use of fake documents as well as illegal migration through vehicles and containers, he noted.

Besides illegal Chinese stowaways aiming to travel to some developed countries, China also kept an eye on the growing problem of illegal immigration of foreigners, especially from neighbouring countries, in recent years, Chen said.

Some illegal immigrants have inhabited, lingered and worked unlawfully in China; while others even participated in robberies, murders and other crimes that disturb the social order, he said.

During the campaign, local police departments repatriated 16,282 illegal foreign migrants after doing inspections and clearance checks at hotels, rented houses, religious places and public entertainment centres, he said.

Between September and January, police in Jiangsu Province cracked an illegal immigration case by arresting 21 criminal suspects and more than 100 Vietnamese women involved marriage frauds.

Chinese officers have also worked together with other countries to handle illegal migration cases.

The latest example, is a joint investigation by officers from China and Britain which has made substantial progress in establishing the identities of all the bodies of 20 Chinese migrants who drowned while gathering shellfish at a British bay, said the Ministry of Public Security.

"Police from the two sides are still working together to deal with related issues after confirming the identities of the victims," said MPS spokesman Sun Yongbo at a news conference.

Since March 4, a five-police-officer panel dispatched by the MPS has worked well with British police investigating the tragedy, he said.

After the tragedy, Chinese and British governments have enhanced co-operation to crackdown on stowaway crimes and repatriation of illegal migrants, MPS officials said.

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