February 14, 2006

US, Canada break up human smuggling ring

By Natalie Armstrong

TORONTO (Reuters) - Law enforcers have broken up an
international ring that smuggled more than 100 people from
several countries across the Canada-U.S. border and have made
17 arrests in four cities, officials said on Tuesday.

Police said they expected further arrests in the case,
after the group smuggled people from Canada to the United
States and from the United States to Canada.

They said cooperation between U.S. and Canadian agencies
was unprecedented, taking advantage of rules brought in after
the September 11 attacks that tightened security along the
world's longest unguarded border -- some 8,890 km (5,560 miles)
including the border with Alaska.

"We are alleging that over the last two years, this group
was responsible for the majority of migrants that were smuggled
into the U.S. (from Canada)," said Michele Paradis, a
spokeswoman with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"They were being hidden in trunks of cars, they were being
put on railway cars, they were put in the backs of transport
trucks and there were occasions where small boats were used."

Paradis said the illegal migrants were from China, Korea
and Eastern Europe. Twenty-four were arrested while trying to
enter Canada from the States, and at least 74 were caught
trying to cross into the United States.

"The smugglers themselves are not the least bit concerned
for the safety of the migrants at all," Paradis said. "They're
only concerned about one thing, and one thing only, and that's
the amount of money they can make."

The two-year international investigation involved the
Mounties, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and
Canada's Border Services Agency.

Greg Palmore, of the Department of Homeland Security's
Immigration and Customs Enforcement section, said the new rules
had helped law enforcers on both sides of the border work
closely at a high level.

"It made the border invisible," he said. "It allowed us to
work together without the barriers that would normally be in
place on a border."