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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 5, 1999 - Daily Post/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---The Fiji Islands police force is trying to uncover an immigration racket involving Chinese and other Asian immigrants, reports the Daily Post.

The scandal has been compared to that of the National Bank of Fiji.

Codenamed Operation Asia, the case involves a police unit seeking out illegal immigrants and the "godfathers" behind the racket.

"Yes, I can confirm that we have set up a special unit specifically assigned to round up all the illegal Asian immigrants working in Fiji," Criminal Investigation Department director ASP Emosi Vunisa said yesterday.

While ASP Vunisa would not elaborate, the crackdown has started with police officers going from shop to shop asking Chinese operators to produce their passports, work permits and immigration papers.

They are working on allegations that many Chinese immigrants were brought to Fiji as farmers.

But after a little time on the farms, most of them have moved to the cities where they now operate small businesses, mostly restaurants, in violation of their work permits.

The crackdown has brought angry protests from the Chinese community in Fiji.

Leading the charge is Chinese community leader Senator Bill Yee who has written to Immigration Minister Paul Manueli and Police Commissioner Isikia Savua complaining of harassment.

"I wrote to them questioning them as to why the Chinese are being discriminated against," Senator Yee said.

"The treatment given to us is a violation of our human rights," he said.

Both Mr. Manueli and Mr. Savua were silent on the issue yesterday.

Police sources said investigation is not limited to identifying the illegal immigrants or the breach of work permits.

It involves how these immigrants came to Fiji in the first place and who is responsible for them.

Statistics show that of the 40 people granted Fiji citizenship in 1996, 35 were of Asian origin - 18 of them from China and 11 from India.

Out of the 2,703 work permits issued in the same period, 211 were to Chinese nationals, 131 to South Koreans, 111 to Indians, 27 to Malaysians, 21 to Sri Lankans and 11 to Pakistanis.

Police believe that the Asian immigration racket goes deeper than the issuing of citizenship and work permits.

They believe big money may have changed hands as recruiting agents tried to entice immigrants to come to Fiji.

Title -- 1974 ECONOMY: Fiji crackdown on Asian migrants Date -- 5 March 1999 Byline -- None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Daily Post (Fiji), 5/3/99 Copyright -- Daily Post Status -- Unabridged

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