Western nations have uncovered an alarming surge in organised crime gangs using Hong Kong airport as the transit centre for smuggling mainland immigrants. Kai Tak has been labelled an international blackspot in the multi-million dollar racket of moving illegal aliens to Canada, the United States and new destinations such as Australia. The trafficking has prompted Canadian immigration authorities to add Hong Kong to their list of the 10 highest-risk embarkation points for illegal immigrants. 'Hong Kong is being targeted by these smuggling rings,' said a Canadian official. The syndicates are mostly trying to smuggle poor Chinese from Shanghai or Fujian province to North America with forged passports or visas for up to US$50,000 (about HK$386,000). They then have to work as indentured labour or in crime to pay off the debt. A US Immigration and Naturalisation Service officer said the numbers being moved out of China on airline flights far exceeded those who boarded the stream of ships destined for America a few years ago. 'This year it has been very busy,' one immigration official told the South China Morning Post. 'The boat smuggling has died down and there is not much activity, but smuggling on airlines has increased.' US Consulate officials were aware of 10 to 20 people being caught each week at Kai Tak trying to board flights to America with forged documents. They were using US passports which were photo-substituted or People's Republic of China passports with fake visas showing they were permanent residents going to America or Canada. The illegal trade has become so profitable that local triads are becoming involved, said a diplomat. 'We have seen people get out of the drug business to get into illegal alien smuggling,' he said. Their involvement has led to the British National (Overseas) travel document issued to Hong Kong residents becoming 'the passport of convenience' for forgers and smugglers. Western diplomats fear its use in the illicit trade will grow after 1997 when holders will also be eligible for the Special Administrative Region passport and be tempted or pressured into selling their extra British document to triads. The upgrading of Hong Kong's airport on Canada's list of transit locations for alien smuggling moved it from No 12 in 1994 to No 6 last year. Other blackspots include London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. There were 341 cases detected in 1995 of people destined for Canada trying to board flights at the airport with suspicious or forged travel documents. A further 132 were picked up at Canadian airports after having left Hong Kong. Officials say those who are detected are probably only a fraction of those moved. Australian officials have noticed an increase in illegal migrants detected at the airport or having disembarked from there since April. Consul (Immigration) Stephen Wilks said a few people were being caught each month. 'We have something of a problem there. We believe it is under control,' he said. The Immigration Department said in its review of last year's operations that it had been able to suppress travel document fraud at the airport.