Sat, Aug 18, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Women escape detention center

BREAKOUT A day after arranging getaway cars, 10 small and thin Vietnamese illegals fled after using a smuggled soldering iron to melt the bars over a window

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Another daring detention center escape in Ilan County involving 10 illegal Vietnamese immigrants yesterday rocked the National Immigration Agency (NIA), an agency press release said.

The agency, which oversees the center, is still reeling from a string of scandals this month, including two other escapes from an Ilan City detention center involving six illegals.

Yesterday's escape occurred in the early hours at an Ilan County detention center after a group of Vietnamese women smuggled a soldering iron into their quarters and melted back the bars over a window, creating a small hole through which to escape, agency deputy director Steve Wu (吳學燕) said.

"The hole was about as big as a piece of A4 paper," Wu said by telephone yesterday.

He didn't elaborate on how the women were able to get their hands on the soldering iron.

Small, thin and scrappy, the 10 detainees in the quarters slipped out into the night amid rain and wind from the approaching typhoon, and were met by getaway vehicles waiting near the center, Wu said.

The escapees, who had been involved in a human-trafficking gang, had phoned an accomplice on the outside from within the center on Wednesday, one day before the break, to arrange for transportation, he said.

"They are very smart," he said. "Nobody expected them to do this."

Busy preparing for Typhoon Sepat as it makes landfall, the Ministry of the Interior has yet to issue a statement on the matter, Wu said, adding that "punishments would be doled out to agency officials," perhaps including agency director Wu Chen-chi (吳振吉), once the typhoon passes.

The immigration agency falls under the ministry.

Despite the weather, authorities in Ilan, working with agency officials, had located one of the escapees yesterday not far from the center, he said. The agency is coordinating a search with police for the other nine escapees, as well as escapees who broke out of the Ilan City detention center earlier this month.

On Aug. 1, five Vietnamese illegals at that center formed a human chain in their quarters at night, reaching up to a duct through which they climbed to the center's roof.

Authorities in Sansia Township (三峽), Taipei County, nabbed two of the escapees just days later. The other three remain at large, as does an alleged Chinese drug dealer who had escaped from the same center late last month by just walking out the front door on a bathroom break.

Asked why detention centers in Ilan were the sites for all three escapes, Steve Wu said that escapees in the Aug. 1 case and yesterday's case were all members of the same trafficking gang, which smuggles or traffics illegal laborers from Vietnam into the country.

The escapees in the Aug. 1 case had likely helped yesterday's escapees, he said.

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