Sun, Aug 05, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Chinese illegals transiting through Taiwan arrested in US

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Five Chinese illegal aliens attempting to enter the US via Taiwan with counterfeit documents and help from a human-trafficking ring were apprehended in the US on Friday in a joint operation between the National Immigration Agency (NIA) and US immigration authorities, agency officials said yesterday.

Arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from Cambodia at approximately 5pm Friday, five Chinese nationals missed their 7pm connecting flight to Hong Kong, setting off a frenzied investigation as to their whereabouts at the airport, agency official Huang Kui-jen (黃貴仁) said by telephone yesterday.

The suspects became wanted illegal aliens after they failed to board EVA Air flight BR1851 to Hong Kong, prompting the airline to notify immigration officials, he said.

"They had given the connecting flight the slip and were prepared to get on other flights with illegal documents," Huang said, adding that an NIA rapid-response task force was formed shortly after Eva Air reported the passengers missing.

The task force worked throughout the night, poring over passenger lists containing nearly 2,000 names until the five illegals were identified, by which time they were already bound for Los Angeles, the agency said in a press release yesterday.

Two illegals holding Taiwanese passports acquired from a human-trafficking ring at the airport were collared by US Homeland Security officers at Los Angeles International Airport immediately after landing there on a separate Eva Air flight, the release said.

US authorities were contacted via the American Institute in Taiwan by the agency while all five illegals were still in the air.

The other three illegals arrived in Los Angeles on a Singapore Airlines flight and hid in an airport bathroom for more than an hour. They were discovered and apprehended by US authorities, the release said.

Huang yesterday said he "wasn't clear" what documents the three illegals on the Singapore Airlines flight had used to board the plane.

However, members of a trafficking ring were present at the departure gates in Taiwan to hand off either boarding passes or Taiwanese passports -- or both -- to the illegals before they boarded the flights, the release said.

Friday's case was the second of its kind since the agency was formed in January. In May, the agency thwarted a similar attempt by a Chinese national to use Taiwan as a staging ground for entering Canada, with the help of a local crime syndicate that had given the illegal a Taiwanese passport.

Canadian border authorities apprehended the Chinese illegal in Vancouver as he walked out of the arrival gate, thanks to a tip from the agency.

Chen Wen-chin (陳文欽), an NIA official, said the number of individuals involved in trafficking at the airport, along with their identities, had yet to be determined.

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