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Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 08:13

Human trafficking syndicate smashed

By Luis Liu

Human trafficking syndicate smashed
In a picture taken on April 24, 2015, people walk at the Lo Wu train station near the border with Hong Kong, in the S outhern Chinese city of Shenzhen. (AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR)

A joint operation by Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities has netted a human-trafficking syndicate and resulted in 34 people arrested. It is the largest case of its kind this year.

This is also the first major human-trafficking group on the Hong Kong border in recent years which has foreign snakeheads.

Among the arrests were 11 snakeheads and 23 illegal immigrants. All the arrested illegal immigrants were South Asians, according to the border security force of the armed police in Guangzhou.

The operation was the end note of a special investigative project by the force targeting human smugglers.

Groups of illegal immigrants were sneaked into China through Guangzhou under arrangements by the organization before arriving at Shenzhen by high-speed trains, according to the Shenzhen squad of the border security force. The syndicate would later smuggle them into Hong Kong by small boats, and connect with its members in the city to find them “jobs”.

Each boat typically carries 10 to 12 people. They usually land near Tai O or Fan Lau. This allows them to stay in mainland waters for most of the journey, according to previous reports.

Each illegal immigrant pays $2,000 (HK$15,600) to $4,000.

Intelligence showed the most usual departure point for the syndicate was near Shenzhen’s Pingzhou Pier at Xixiang, according to the Shenzhen squad.

In September, the first round of the joint actions was carried out near waters at Hong Kong’s Tuen Mun, Shenzhen’s Xiaochan Island and Futian district. Then, 10 of the 11 snakeheads and all the illegal immigrants were caught. The only person to escape was caught recently, according to the border security force.

The number of human-trafficking syndicates has been rising in recent years. In 2014, Shenzhen authorities arrested 149 organizers, whereas the number stood at 129 in 2013, and 73 in 2012.

The Shenzhen route emerged as a 63 percent year-on-year rise was recorded after 1,984 non-ethnic-Chinese illegal immigrants were arrested in Hong Kong last year, Hong Kong police figures showed.

Hong Kong has been turning into a favorable destination for South Asians in the past decade, leading to visa restrictions being tightened. Visa-free access for Bangladeshi nationals was withdrawn in 2006.
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