Stewart Bell National Post

Child migrants ferried to the British Columbia coast from China this summer aboard two smuggling ships have been mistreated by Canadian authorities, who have subjected them to physical abuse, yelling, family separation and strip searches, immigration lawyers alleged yesterday.

One youth suffered severe bruising when an enraged Mountie pushed a table against his leg. Teenagers have complained of having their blankets torn off them at 5:30 a.m. and being “roughhandled” out of bed by police, said Kevin Doyle, a lawyer for three of the refugee-claimants.

The allegations prompted the Canadian Council for Refugees to call for an independent investigation into the treatment of the minors, who make up a significant portion of the boat people smuggled to Canada aboard the derelict ships that set sail from from China’s Fujian province.

Meanwhile, an adult refugee claimant has also complained of being abused. Marlene Tyshynski, a Victoria immigration lawyer, said she saw a large bruise on the upper arm of a “very petite” woman who explained the injury had occurred when an RCMP officer forced her out of bed.

“She was lying on her bed and she was asked to get up and she hadn’t I guess attended to the instruction or appreciated that it was intended for her and so she was grabbed,” Ms. Tyshynski said. “She was crying and she showed me the huge bruise, and it was a very large bruise.”

RCMP officers have been guarding the migrants at a fortified gymnasium at CFB Esquimalt near Victoria, B.C. But the police force said it was not aware of any complaints about its members. “That’s the first I’ve heard about it,” said Constable Tracey Rook, an RCMP spokeswoman.

After being notified of the latest allegations, the Montreal-based refugee council said yesterday that, if substantiated, they “point to a series of violations of the minors’ rights by a variety of government authorities” handling the 75 children who arrived July 28 and Aug. 11.

“We are calling for an independent investigation into how Canada is treating these children,” said Francisco Rico-Martinez, the council president. “From the information we have received, it appears as if various government institutions are working together to deprive these children of their rights.”

Aside from the alleged abuse, the council said it was concerned that girls as young as 12 had been subjected to strip-searches as well as “other allegations of harsh treatment of various kinds” including “being frequently shouted at” and pulled from their beds if they did not rise immediately.

Dogs were paraded between beds during the night while the migrants tried to sleep, the council said, and minors were separated from their parents, causing “significant stress” to families.

Mr. Doyle, a Victoria lawyer, said he saw a bruise on the leg of one young person on Thursday night. It was three weeks old yet still visible, he said. “The refugee told me an RCMP officer flew into a rage when the refugee relayed advice given to him by lawyers. The refugee stated that a table was pushed in to his leg.

Vaughan Dowie, assistant deputy minister at the Child Services Ministry, said he was not aware of any allegations of mistreatment. He said the youths under 18 are living at a facility in Victoria as well as in foster homes, while five are being detained under the authority of immigration officials. The 18-year-olds are all being detained.

He said the children are being housed separate from their parents because the immigration department does not have facilities suitable for families, he said. The youths range in age from 6 to 18. All the passengers on the smuggling ships have claimed refugee status.

Vancouver Sun Friday August 27 1999 front A-1

Go home, migrant kids urged : British Columbia’s child protection chief says they could face a life of prostitution or forced labour in the United States.

B.C.’s director of child protection has warned the children who came to Canada on human-smuggling boats that they should voluntarily return to China to avoid a life of prostitution or forced labour in the United States.

In an Aug. 17 letter translated into Chinese and distributed to the 75 children aged 11 to 14, Ross Dawson said he has been advised the people who brought them to Canada were deceiving them.

He said he understands they were told a smuggling organization could get them into the U.S. so they could work and send money to their family back home.

“I have been told that if you go to the United States, children of both genders will be forced to work as prostitutes or forced to work in a factory by the smugglers,” Dawson wrote in the letter, which has drawn sharp criticism from lawyers representing the children.

“They [the smugglers] will take any money you earn from you.”

The letter says the children must make an important decision about whether to return to China or ask to stay in Canada.

“As your guardian,” Dawson wrote, “I think that it is in your best interests to return to China so that you can be with your family.”

There will be no cost to them or their family if they decide to return home, he wrote.

In an interview Thursday, Dawson said the wording of the letter was not what was intended.

“It came out that it looked like we had predetermined they should return to China and that’s unfortunate.”

While the children’s lawyers expressed concern that subtle and direct pressure is being exerted on the minors to return home, Dawson said children and families ministry staff are not discouraging them from making refugee claims.

He said the letter was meant to convey the general message that children should remain with their own families.

“What we were trying to communicate and our position as a ministry, whether to be from Canada or outside Canada, that our philosophy is we think children do best with their families.”

But defence counsel Kevin Doyle said Thursday the message the children are receiving is quite different.

Lawyers for the youths were not allowed to sit on on interviews between Mandarin-speaking social workers and the children, he said, leaving him to wonder whether there were verbal attempts to encourage them to return to China.

All the children have made refugee claims, but can choose to drop them and ask to return to China.

Doyle also criticized the ministry, immigration officials and the RCMP for a number of other actions that he claims violated the refugees’ rights.

Some of his clients have told him the RCMP handled them so forcefully that they have bruises, and some have said they are terrified by dogs paraded in between their beds at night while they are sleeping.

Only five of the 75 children arrived with their mothers, but were separated from them because there was no place for them while the mothers were in detention. The children were taken into ministry care, which means they can be put into group homes, according to Vaughan Dowie, assistant deputy minister for the ministry.

“We have committed to those parents to try and keep them in close contact with their children,” Dowie said.

Most of the 75 children are in group homes, but ministry officials would like to find Mandarin-speaking foster homes for them. The cost for keeping the minors amounts to $8,200 a month, almost 10 times the normal $700 to $1,200 for minors in ministry care.

Dowie said the cost, which the province has asked the federal government to pay, is high because translators and a higher number of staff are needed to care for them.

Dowie was adamant the children are not in custody and have gone out into the community. But he also said strict security measures are in place, given suggestions that some of the children were to pay off the cost of their transport by working for organized crime groups once they arrived in Canada.

The arrival of the unaccompanied children — 17 males from the first boat, 37 males and 16 females from the second — has put a lot of stress on the ministry, he said.

The first ship carrying 123 Chinese migrants was spotted July 20 in Nootka Sound near the Vancouver Island community of Gold River.

All of the 123 migrants claimed refugee status and 76 were released while Immigration Canada determined their refugee status.

Canada-wide search warrants were issued Thursday for five who did not show up for scheduled refugee hearings in Vancouver.

Rob Johnston, enforcement manager for Citizenship and Immigration Canada in Vancouver, said seven of the 76 were originally believed to have missed their scheduled hearings. But officials later found two had filed written reasons to explain why they did not appear. The two who missed their hearings are still in Vancouver, said Johnston.

Thirty-seven others remain in custody in Vancouver. Nineteen are suspected of being involved in the human smuggling operation.

A second vessel carrying 131 people arrived Aug. 11, after a 60-day voyage from China. The migrants were dropped near a remote northern coastal island and told to wade to shore.

Of those, 57 face deportation while the remaining 74 are being assessed as potential refugees.

Nine Korean sailors who were arrested and charged under the Immigration Act in connection with the ship that brought the illegal Chinese immigrants to the Queen Charlotte Islands appeared in court Thursday in Victoria.

Five were remanded to appear again next week, while a bail hearing began for the other four. It is expected to conclude this morning but there is a publication ban on the evidence. ____________________________________________________________________________



CBC Newsworld online

Police estimate the smugglers ferried more than 100 Chinese nationals halfway around the world each year

Migrant smuggling continues despite ‘biggest’ bust

WebPosted Fri Aug 27 10:45:04 1999

TORONTO – Canadian and American authorities say the breakup of a huge Chinese migrant smuggling ring in Central Canada has done little to stop the business of trafficking people.

Last December, police rounded up 45 suspects in a smuggling ring that operated from Fujian province in China, through Mohawk territory near Cornwall, Ont. and into the United States.

It was the biggest bust of its kind.

When U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno announced the arrests last December she said the bust had “crippled another smuggling syndicate that sought to profit in human misery.”

It was a multi-million-dollar business.

Police estimate the smugglers ferried more than 100 Chinese nationals halfway around the globe each month.

But the numbers of illegal migrants caught at the border haven’t changed much since then.

Law enforcement officials said they recently nabbed dozens of illegal migrants trying to cross into the U.S. near Windsor, Ont.

Paid smugglers have been helping the migrants slip across the border in the Lake St. Clair area, officials told CBC News.

And off Canada’s west coast, RCMP Const. Marie Claude Arsenault has watched the shiploads of Chinese migrants arrive. She says the police haven’t been able to do much about the problem.

“I see that we haven’t had a great impact because they found other means of coming to Canada, because they were still coming by boat at the time when we were investigating those peoples,” Arsenault told CBC News.

“It just keeps going. There’s a lot of money to be made.”

American officials agree.

“Any time you dismantle one organization there’s always individuals willing to step up into that vacuum and start the criminal activity anew,” said Michael Gilhooly of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

As for the biggest bust in history, half of the suspected smugglers have pleaded guilty in the United States — the latest entered a plea just last week.

In Canada, no pleas have been entered and no suspects are even close to going on trial. _______________________



CBC Newsworld online

Vancouver Airport has expelled 700 Korean illegal migrants in 18 months

B.C. gateway for Korean illegal migrants to U.S.

WebPosted Mon Aug 23 15:42:40 1999

BLAINE, WA. – Police and immigration officials say they’re witnessing a dramatic increase in the number of South Koreans trying to enter the United States illegally through B.C. border crossings.

The recent arrival of two boatloads of Chinese migrants off B.C.’s coast has prompted an intense debate about whether Canada’s immigration laws are too lax.

Yet Canadian officials say Chinese boatpeople make up just a small fraction of those trying to abuse the system.

Other nationalities, they say, have a much easier time getting here — and use equally sophisticated smuggling operations to get in.

At Vancouver International Airport, South Korea is No. 1 on the list of nationalities of illegal migrants. They make the move because of poor economic conditions at home.

South Korean nationals don’t require a visa to enter Canada and can take advantage of relatively cheap flights.

Nine direct flights from Seoul touch down each week in Vancouver. Many on board are hoping theirs will be a one-way trip, says Paula Bennet, manager for citizenship and immigration at the airport.

In the last 18 months, her staff has expelled almost 700 South Koreans — all suspected of coming to Canada hoping to be smuggled into the United States.

Canadian officials expect the number of South Koreans using Canada as a springboard to the States will continue to rise.

That means more work for Carey James of the U.S. border patrol in Blaine, Wash., just south of Vancouver.

In a single week this spring, James’s staff arrested 25 South Koreans trying to sneak across the border.



CBC Newsworld online

U.S. boosts Canadian border patrols

WebPosted Sat Aug 21 11:39:27 1999

TORONTO – The United States is adding more government agents along the Canadian border to try to reduce the number of foreigners sneaking into the U.S.

American officials say the flow across the Canadian border is small but sophisticated, especially smuggling operations involving Chinese migrants.

Ed Duda, who patrols the Canada-U.S. border in the St. Lawrence River sector, calls the Chinese rings “well-oiled machines.”

“If you stop a load of aliens at 11 a.m., it isn’t 11:30 or 11:45 a.m. and we’re already getting calls from attorneys in New York City asking what the bonds are on these people that we arrested,” he told CBC News.

“The attorneys know before the sector staff does.”

Last December, police and immigration officials on both sides of the border cracked a smuggling ring in the St. Lawrence area, arresting dozens of people.

In Detroit, not far from Duda’s territory, border official Brent Easton notes that the people smugglers have shifted their business.

“We are seeing a marked increase in Pacific Rim countries — China, Korea, Malaysia,” Easton told CBC News.

“Matter of fact, we already doubled where we were at this time last year. Lord knows where we’ll be at the end of the fiscal year.”

Help is on the way. Twenty-two agents are to join the 300 patrolling the U.S. side of the 49th parallel. _______________________

CBC Newsworld online

Tibetans latest flood of refugees to Canada

WebPosted Wed Aug 18 18:09:47 1999

TORONTO – The West Coast isn’t the only part of Canada that’s experiencing a refugee influx. A group of Tibetans has asked for refugee status in southern Ontario.

On Friday 40 Tibetans simply showed up at a downtown shelter and claimed to be refugees. One would-be refugee told CBC News he came to Canada because “you’ll be accepted.”

How did they get here? They simply crossed the border from the United States.

They had all the right paperwork thanks to an American refugee agency that escorted them to the Fort Erie, Ontario, checkpoint.

It has all the makings of a trend.

According to Immigration Canada, 53 Tibetans crossed into Canada from the United States in July. In the past two weeks, 123 more came across.

One reason given by some of the Tibetans for the sudden influx is that they’ve heard a rumour Canada is planning to toughen its immigration policy in the fall.



CBC Newsworld online

More Tibetans Arrive at Homeless Shelter

WebPosted Aug 16 1999 6:45 PM EDT

TORONTO – Another 28 Tibetans arrived at the Seaton House shelter last night in five taxis direct form teh Fort Erie border crossing.

They join the 30 from llast week and now there’s close to 60 staying at Seaton House. There’s only 550 beds at this city- run men’s hostel… and the Tibetans didn’t want to stay in the main quarters.

“It was incongruent with their lifetyle and many of them are holy people,”says Boris Rosolak, the Seaton House manager. “They found it was too crowded for their liking. So the were moved to these more private rooms.”

Rooms that Seaton House is trying to close off because of renovations.

The Tibetans say they are coming from India, Nepal, New York, Detroit and San Francisco. Some of the monks have come directly from Tibet. They won’t say if the group arrival is organized. They maintain that they did not know each other before they met at the border.

“It’s a high number, but again, anyone who comes to Canada has the right to make a refugee claim and they would be allowed to make that claim,” says Giovani Gatti of Immigration Canada.

The sudden arrivals may be connected to the Dalai Lama’s visit to New York. More are expected tomorrow and Seaton House says it hasn’t the resources to deal with it.