US nabs boatload of illegal aliens claiming links to HK
From SIMON BECK in Washington
AMERICAN officials' hopes that they had stemmed the flow of illegal alien smuggling from China have been dashed with the arrival of a new boatload at the American territory of Puerto Rico.
Some of the 52 Chinese on board claimed they were mainly from Fujian province and had flown out of Hong Kong on April 22, passing through France and an unidentified country before landing in the Dominican Republic on April 27.
They later took the boat with the intention of entering the US through Puerto Rico.
But they were intercepted by federal agents and were detained, with three Caribbeans, soon after they landed in a small village on the island's northwest coast.
Around 35 aliens from the same boat are believed to have escaped.
The incident is the first known case of an alien-smuggling boat turning up on US soil since the Golden Venture's ill-fated arrival off the coast of New York in June, when 10 were killed trying to get to shore.
Hundreds of passengers from the Golden Venture, said to have ownership links with Hong Kong, are still in detention in the US.
Most have been screened out as not qualifying for asylum, and US officials are liaising with China in a bid to have them sent back as soon as possible.
The history of the latest arrivals seem to confirm what officials had feared - that the smugglers have started using different tactics to get their human cargo to the US.
Previously, officials had been battling to stop the flow of boats which were making direct sailings from Fuijian to either coast of the US mainland.
As well as the Golden Venture, this year's high profile cases included the East Wood - which was apprehended by US coast guards off the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, and three boatloads that foundered in the water off Mexico, where authorities agreed to help the US by allowing the cargo ashore and sending them back to China.