Fri, February 25, 2011
China > Mainland

Inside the snakehead trade in SE China's Fujian(3)

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

"Many people took the deal. They just didn't want to risk their life anymore, but I still yearned to go to Britain."

The snakehead dispatched Huang across the border to Strasbourg station and told him to get on the last train to Lyon where his man would be waiting.

In case Huang forgot, the snakehead wrote "Lyon" on his hand and gave him 20 euros for the pay-phone in case he couldn't find his man.

From Germany to France took Huang nearly 20 hours. He didn't eat a thing. Stay put and keep your mouth shut, the snakehead had warned him.


Huang found his contact in Lyon easily and the man took him to an apartment to share with eight other Chinese, a small room with poor sanitation. Someone would come and take him to his final destination, Huang was told.

He waited three months.

During Huang's stay in France, he worked for a Chinese restaurant and at a clothes shop, but what left the strongest impression upon him was the conflicts between Chinese and other peoples.

"There were many illegal immigrants in France, not just from China but from all over the world," he said.

"Some had formed gangs to protect their turf. I kept myself out of all that. It was too risky and I just hoped the man to take me to Britain would appear soon."

Safe in France for the moment, Huang contacted his family and they told him the snakehead had assured them, yes, Huang would be taken to Britain or they didn't have to pay the remaining three-quarters of the money.

Three months later, the man Huang had been waiting for finally arrived. He drove Huang to Calais where a British truck driver was waiting.

"The driver opened up his driving seat," Huang said. "I could see a space that only fit one man underneath. He told me I had to lie down inside there for the next hour and keep quiet.

"When I got in, I felt like I was in a coffin. I clung to the hope that my driver wouldn't fart."

On the night of March 18, 2001, Huang arrived in Dover. It had taken six months.

A Chinese man of about 30 met Huang and dialed his family on the mainland, telling Huang to confirm he had indeed arrived safely and that they should pay out the rest of the money to a local contact.

"And from that day, I spent five years in Britain. I married a Canadian woman for a green card," Huang said. "It's like a business. Most people use a fake marriage to get a green card.

"I did the same thing and I divorced her a few weeks later after I got the green card.

"My wife now is Chinese, also from Fujian."

Fast facts: Deadly snakeheads

June 18, 2000 58 suspected illegal immigrants from China die in a container lorry at Dover, shocking all of Europe. Most came from Fujian.

October 8, 2001 25 Chinese people trying to get into South Korea suffocate on a boat and are dumped by the South Korean captain.

Feburary 5, 2004 23 illegal Chinese immigrants die in Morecambe Bay, 20 them from Fujian.

October 19, 2009 10 people die in the Caribbean Sea trying to stow away from Fujian Province to the US.

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