16 Chinese Discovered in Cargo Container
By ANNA GORMAN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Sixteen Chinese men and teenage boys were discovered Saturday morning in a cargo container at the Port of Long Beach, immigration authorities said.
The men were in "relatively good condition," said Tom Graber, area port director for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS arrested all 16 stowaways, two of whom said they were minors. They are being held at the INS processing center on Terminal Island.
The stowaways were found before 11 a.m. in a commercial cargo container on a boat run by China Ocean Shipping Company, or COSCO. They had been inside the container since Jan. 19, when the ship left mainland China, with stops in Hong Kong and Japan. Acting on a tip, immigration and Customs officials were at the port when the ship arrived.
"We suspected there might be some Chinese being smuggled in a container," Graber said. "So we were there in full force."
This is the second incident in a week in which Chinese men were found at the port. On Jan. 27, immigration officials arrested four men who were seen wandering around the dock area.
The men had also hidden in a container on a COSCO ship during a trip from China, authorities said. An investigation showed that 11 others had escaped.
Graber said there was no evidence of cooperation in the smuggling by the shipping company.
INS authorities say there has been a wave of illegal Chinese migrants making their way to the West Coast in the past few years.
In one highly publicized incident in January 2000, three Chinese stowaways were found dead inside a 40-foot cargo container aboard a ship at the Port of Seattle. Fifteen others emerged from the container malnourished and dehydrated.
The investigation into Saturday's incident is continuing. The Chinese nationals will probably be taken to Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster to await hearings. Some may be eligible for political asylum.
source: ВВС, 03/02/2002, Los Angeles Times