The price of a new life

7th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

The lucrative business of human smuggling has global and historical roots, but why is the Netherlands a vital junction in the modern trade of human cargo? Aaron Gray-Block reports.

Dozens of children have disappeared from refugee shelters and other accommodation in the Netherlands in what is the latest human smuggling scandal to hit the Dutch headlines.

Gang allegedly used fake passports to smuggle illegal immigrants

The military police service, Marechaussee, has revealed 18 suspects had been arrested in connection with the case.

The suspects — aged 15 to 55 — are accused of smuggling dozens of Chinese children into the Netherlands in the past 18 months.

Inquiries were launched in November 2004 after "alarming reports" from the Nidos Foundation — which cares for young asylum seekers — indicated that unaccompanied child refugees were disappearing.

Military police spokesman Ron Stenacker said some of the smuggled children were allegedly shipped on to other European countries such as France and Italy. The others remained in the Netherlands.

A UNICEF investigation into child smuggling in the Netherlands revealed last September that trafficked children are often sold as cheap labour. Gangs allegedly sell children for EUR 10,000 to 15,000 to restaurants, sewing workshops and brothels.

In the latest case, police claim the arrested suspects used forged passports. Some suspects arranged transport, while others arranged documentation.

The suspects are primarily Chinese immigrants with the Dutch nationality, but two staff members at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam as well as a Turkish and a Bulgarian suspect have also been detained.
Police and prosecution officials claim there is little that can be done to counter human smuggling, due in part to a lack of specialised personnel.

Schiphol smuggling hub

It was reported in January that 675 Schiphol staff have been arrested in five years in relation to human smuggling. Many had special passes that allowed them to use personnel-only doors to circumvent passport controls.

A report last month identified Schiphol as an important hub in smuggling illegal immigrants into the European Union. Out of 12 known routes to the EU, five of them end at Schiphol, European police agency Europol said.

Five known smuggling routes end at Schiphol

The report — compiled by the Dutch national police force KLPD — said human smugglers are increasingly using the Netherlands as a transit land to final destinations in Britain, the US and Scandinavia.

Due to stricter asylum policies introduced in 2001, the Netherlands has changed from a land of destination to a transit land for illegal immigrants.

And the nation is not expected to become a popular end destination again in the short-term and might even decline further in popularity. This is due to the fact the government is actively fighting illegal housing and workers. The government's stricter asylum policies also makes the Netherlands less appealing.

In 2002-03, police carried out 267 investigations into human smuggling, 197 of which were finalised within three days. The remaining 70 were large-scale investigations.

The KLPD said in 30 cases, there were indications of a human smuggling gang and in 15 cases there were indications of a hierarchical network, which is common among Chinese gangs.

Besides the Chinese, there are also Iraqi, Turkish and Somali gangs involved in human smuggling.

Cars are the preferred method of transport, followed by the ferry to Britain. Train and planes are the third and fourth preferred modes of transport.

Payments vary from under EUR 1,000 to EUR 20,000, depending on distance travelled, transport means and documents required.

Dover and other examples

A high-profile case was the discovery in June 2000 of 58 dead illegal Chinese immigrants in a truck at Dover. They had suffocated to death.

Perry W., the Dutch driver of the truck, was jailed in the UK. He has since been relocated to the Netherlands to serve out the end of the sentence. A group of human smugglers operating in the Netherlands were also prosecuted and som

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