Devious smuggling routes for undocumented workers or trafficking victims

Although there are two protocols on migration attached to the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime, trafficking is increasingly the word used to describe any undocumented migration. The reporter of this story from South America has no idea whether the migrants involved were being badly exploited or not (which would make them trafficked), since the only information available is that forged documents were detected – which may simply mean that the migrants paid to be transported to Suriname (which would make them smuggled).

Many don’t understand smuggling processes or the devious routes sometimes used. In another story involving Schiphol Airport, women defined as from Eastern Europe were arriving in Amsterdam possibly to sell sex. In a comments-discussion afterwards I pointed out that being legally attached to a country does not mean one is travelling from that place, whether one is a tourist or undocumented migrant, so the women in question could have been arriving from anywhere. They also might have been acting fully on their own, buying tickets online, or smugglers or traffickers could be involved – there was no evidence to illuminate this in that story, either. Since most smugglers are individuals belonging to small networks (as opposed to large mafia-type organisations), routes depend on contacts and opportunities known to smugglers at the moment and thus change all the time.

The route used in the story below began somewhere in China, passed through Tanzania and was supposed to navigate Amsterdam in order to arrive in Suriname. I suppose the Chinese leader had jobs lined up in Suriname and provided documents acceptable to Tanzanian border officials (if they checked transit passengers at all). Attempting to go through a hyper-aware European airport like Schiphol seems dim: Forged documents are more likely to be recognised in such a city, and transit passengers may also be scrutinised. The smuggler did a bad job, whether he was planning to exploit migrants or was a nice person or not.

Smuggled Chinese detained in Holland en route to Suriname

Stabroek News (Guyana) 30 November 2011

Paramaribo – The judicial authorities in Suriname have not been officially informed yet by the Netherlands about the detention of a group of Chinese who wanted to travel to Suriname with forged documents. This is said by coalition Parliamentarian Ricardo Panka, chairman of the committee for Foreign Affairs in Parliament. Last week, officials at Schiphol airport detained six Chinese in connection with human trafficking. They had arrived from Tanzania and were on their way to Suriname. One of them, a man from Hong Kong, was the leader of the other five. They were caught when their documents turned out to be forgeries. Dutch media reported this event last Friday. Panka says that the Surinamese government has not given an official reaction yet, because an official report from the Netherlands has not received yet. . .

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

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