A special team is to be set up to crack down on snakeheads who smuggle mainland children to the territory, Police Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on said yesterday. Returning from a 10-day visit to Beijing, Guangdong and Shenzhen, Mr Hui said he had discussed a number of cross-border security issues, including the recent influx of illegal immigrant children. Police have arrested about 1,500 illegal immigrant children so far this year, compared with 754 last year. 'Children cannot find their own way to Hong Kong. They must be organised by some syndicates. I have therefore decided to set up a team which will specially look into this problem,' Mr Hui said. Guangdong officials had stepped up border patrols and were considering increasing the openness of the one-way permit application procedure by informing applicants when they would be allowed to come to Hong Kong, he said. Chief Superintendent John Li Ka-chiu of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said officers from the police's operation wing handled strategy to stop the influx, such as the setting up of the special team. His department was responsible for cracking down on smuggling syndicates, Mr Li said. On Monday, officials from Guangdong Public Security Bureau said more than 130,000 children in the province had applied to be reunited with their Hong Kong parents. Assistant Director of Immigration Mak Kwai-yun, however, said there were only about 116,000 mainland children waiting to settle here. He said the figures given by Guangdong officials might include unqualified applicants. Only 35,000 would remain on the list by July, he said. Post-handover executive councillor Tam Yiu-chung called for a fair, reasonable and feasible solution to deal with the children. He proposed to increase the daily quota of 66 one-way permits issued to children. Another councillor, Henry Tang Ying-yen, said Tung Chee-hwa's Cabinet would soon start gathering information on the children, including their age distribution, to help formulate policies.