ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION INFLUX IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC

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UNITED STATES COAST GUARD Fourteenth District Coast Guard Public Affairs 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Suite 9-208 Honolulu, Hawaii 96850-4982

NEWS RELEASE May 7, 1999

The number of illegal migrants intercepted in the waters off Guam has increased. Federal and local authorities have taken more than 800 illegal Asian migrants into custody on and in the vicinity of the U.S. Territory of Guam since mid-March 1999. Authorities have interdicted three of those vessels totaling over 300 people in the last weeks.

The concern over this influx of illegal migrants is both a humanitarian and law enforcement issue. The majority of these migrants have made the transit from Mainland China on small, ill-equipped fishing vessels. Due to the duration of the voyage and the large numbers of people crammed onto the vessels, conditions are both unsafe and unsanitary. As the number of migrant vessels increases and the Pacific typhoon season intensifies, the formula for tragedy multiplies. The U.S. has been in contact with the government of the People’s Republic of China to attempt to stop the illegal movement of migrants.

The Coast Guard has diverted additional vessels and aircraft to patrol the waters off Guam. On the island itself, available facilities are filled beyond capacity. Recently interdicted migrants have been taken to a temporary camp on Tinian in the nearby U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), where they will remain until arrangements can be made to repatriate them.

To assist with repatriating the migrants, the INS and U.S. Public Health Service have transferred numerous officers, interpreters and medical personnel to assist with processing the migrants. The Department of Defense and the governments of Guam and CNMI have provided suitable lodging for these migrants. The temporary holding facilities on Tinian are located on land leased from CNMI by the Department of Defense. The U.S. Marshall Service will manage the disposition of the seized migrant vessels.

An interagency advisory group coordinating the effort is comprised of the Departments of State, Justice, Defense and Interior, as well as the National Security Council, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the White House Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Respective agencies can be contacted for details concerning their efforts.

Questions regarding the at-sea interdiction of migrants may be directed to the U.S. Coast Guard at (202) 267-0932. Questions regarding migrant processing should be directed to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service at (202) 616-5000. Questions regarding diplomatic efforts to repatriate migrant should be directed to U.S. Department of State of (202) 647-0453.

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