Fri, February 25, 2011
China > Mainland

Inside the snakehead trade in SE China's Fujian(2)

2011-02-25 08:19:01 GMT2011-02-25 16:19:01(Beijing Time)  Global Times

An old couple sits in a village in Fuqing, Fujian Province. Most young people leave here for other countries to earn money. Photo: CFP

About a week later, another new snakehead appeared at the house and asked everyone to get on a truck.

"I don't know how long we drove," Huang said. "We stopped by some woods at night. It was really cold and dark.

"It had been snowing a few days. I never saw so much snow in my whole life.

The Ukraine was on the other side of the woods, they were told. Huang and the others traversed the dense undergrowth where they were told another truck was waiting for them.

"There was actually no clear path through the woods," Huang said, "but we didn't dare ask too much. We just focused on finding our way on our own."

After more than 40 minutes, someone shouted they had seen the truck.

"We were exhausted because I hadn't eaten too much and it was really insufferably cold for someone like me coming from southern China."

"After we got on the truck, the driver said, 'Welcome aboard. Next stop: Czech Republic,' but we never suspected that it would take us another two months to make that next stop."

That night, Huang and the others actually crowded into a room in the Ukraine near the Russian border. They stayed there a few days until one night a police squad broke down the door and pointed guns at the terrified Chinese.

"We were petrified," Huang said. "There were more than 20 of them and we couldn't understand a word they were saying until a Chinese interpreter came up and told us they were Ukraine immigration officers who were going to take us to the police station for questioning."

Before Huang and the others embarked on their trip, the snakehead had already advised them on what to say if police captured them.

The answer was simple: They must say they were seeking political asylum.

When Huang was captured, the banned cult Falun Gong was making global headlines. So Huang and the oth-ers all said they were being persecuted and in this way, succeeded in not being deported.

Three days later, everyone was sent to a refugee camp on the border of Ukraine. The official there told them they could live freely in the camp where there were shops, a theater and restaurants, but they couldn't take one step outside.

"The camp did offer daily necessities, but it was small and dirty and after you had been there longer than a month, life got boring," Huang said.

"Plus we weren't earning any money. It was driving us nuts."

Czech Republic-Germany

Just when Huang feared he could hold out no longer, the snakehead they had met in the Ukraine appeared again. He told them to pack immediately and leave.

"He told us to go out through the east gate. The soldier there wouldn't ask any questions and we would be taken to the Czech Republic," Huang said.

"I have to say the news came like a kind of salvation."

Huang had been at the camp nearly two months and was halfway to his final destination.

"We didn't get much trouble from Slovakia through the Czech Republic to Germany, except of course for the appalling standards of transport, food and accommodation," Huang said.

"We had never expected the Germans to be so kind to us. I don't know whether the snakehead had paid them off."

"It had been arranged that we all apply for refugee status and we were told if we choose to stay in Germany, then authorities would find us a job later.

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