Chinese immigrants exploited in Paris: ILO report

21st June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 21 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants are living in the Paris area, where many work in conditions of extreme poverty and isolation, according to a report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released on Tuesday.

PARIS, June 21 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants are living in the Paris area, where many work in conditions of extreme poverty and isolation, according to a report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released on Tuesday.

Smuggled into France by criminal gangs, the men and women are indentured to sweatshops and restaurants where they spend years paying off the cost of their journey. Many live in constant fear of discovery and never leave their homes.

The report puts the number at 50,000 -- 70 percent of them in Paris, and 30 percent in the northern and eastern suburbs.

"It is rare for them to receive proper treatment from their employers. They are extremely vulnerable and abuse is widespread," said Gao Yun, co-author of 'The traffic and exploitation of Chinese immigrants in France.'

"The language barrier prevents them from asking for help or having access to associations which aid victims of forced labour. Work inspectors and police say that very few of them lodge a complaint," he said.

Illegal Chinese immigrants began arriving in large numbers in Europe between 10 and 15 years ago, responding to painful economic restructuring at home. Most are from rural regions of China and have little education. Paris harbours one of the biggest communities.

Because visas are almost impossible to come by, the immigrants rely on underground networks of people-smugglers who charge between EUR 12,000 and EUR 20,000 for the journey, according to the report.

"It takes between two and ten years to pay it off," said Gao Yun.

Traffickers take the immigrants' identity papers at the start of the trip and hand them to their employers in Paris. These then retain a portion of the immigrants' salary to reimburse the debt.

The report's authors found that most immigrants work in clothes-manufacturing, restaurants or the building trade, where they receive between EUR 300 and EUR 500 a month for work days of up to 18 hours.

Unscrupulous business-owners continue to exploit the workers even after the repayments are completed, holding over them the constant threat of exposure to the police, the report said.

To escape detection from inspectors, employers also disperse their workers into hundreds of home-based units which are effectively sealed off from the outside world.

"I have visited homes where there are two or three children living with their parents in a state of total secrecy. Out of fear, they never once left the building," said Gao Yun.

The report urges greater co-operation between the authorities in China and France as well as in transit countries. It also calls for training programmes for police and work inspectors so they understand the Chinese community better.

Adequate laws exist in France to clamp down on forced labour but their application is proving extremely hard, the report's authors said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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