Search on for illegal Chinese immigrants

Chinese workers in Trinidad
Chinese workers in Trinidad

guardian.co.tt
May 09, 2011

Immigration officials have begun hunting down illegal Chinese nationals who have come into T&T to “slave” in thriving casinos, Chinese supermarkets, restaurants and private members’ clubs. But while the hunt goes on inland, senior police officers lament that the coastlines of T&T remain open for human trafficking and smuggling of illegal cargo including drugs, guns and ammunition. The underworld trafficking ring is believed to be controlled by a branch of the Chinese Triad, a well-organised criminal gang which exploits poor Chinese immigrants. These Chinese workers, desperate for a shot at riches in T&T, come from poor areas of China, including Ningxia, Guizhou and Quinhai.

They work between 12 and 15 hours daily, labouring in Chinese business places and are given strict instructions not to speak or interact with local citizens, a security source disclosed. Although immigration officials have been visiting Chinese fast food outlets, requesting to see work permits and other documents, sources say many of the illegal Chinese immigrants remain hidden from the public glare, working in storerooms and kitchens. A senior police source, who requested anonymity, revealed that illegal immigrants were coming into T&T through several points in south Trinidad, namely at Puerto Grande, Erin; Buenos Ayres, Erin; Mahawal Trace, Santa Flora; Galfar Point, Cedros; Point Coco, Granville, Morne Diablo, Penal; and Quinam Beach, Siparia.

The immigrants are met by locals who use personal connections at the Immigration Department and Licensing Authority to provide official documents for the Chinese workers. In an interview, Minister in the Ministry of National Security Subhas Panday, who has been gathering intelligence on human trafficking in T&T, revealed that illegal immigrants were entering Trinidad through several points at Moruga, including La Lune, La Rufin, Gran Chemin, Canary and La Kable. “Many of the illegal immigrants come through the La Rufin River and they move upwards the island,” Panday said. Fisherman Paul Canoe (not his real name) denied seeing any Chinese workers in Moruga. “We more have illegal Venezuelans and Guyanese coming through here, but no Chinese,” he said.

But senior police detectives in the South Western Division said the influx of illegal immigrants was putting a further strain on manpower. A senior detective said it was near impossible to catch the traffickers who were always one step ahead of the police. “We know who are the ones involved in the trade, but they have a good network in the communities and before we reach on the spot, they are already tipped off,” the detective said. He added that all of the undesignated ports are heavily forested and it made better sense to fight the human traffickers at sea, rather than from land. “If Trinidad really wants to deal with the human trafficking, gun trade and drug problems, then all that needs to be done is to monitor every boat that leaves Trinidad and goes to South America,” he said.

“The radar at San Fernando Hill is supposed to pick up the boats…Our Coast Guard needs to intercept them on the sea, check their cargo, but for some strange reason, that is not being done. “Even the Coast Guard in Cedros are not doing that.” He said the Coast Guard must also monitor those fishing vessels which leave the ports without fishing nets. “These boats go with ten big containers of fuel and no fishing nets…What are they going there for?” the officer added. Another senior police source said the cancellation of the Offshore Patrol Vessels and the dismantling of the Blimp had further impeded their fight against human trafficking and crime. But Panday said it was the role of the Coast Guard to monitor the coasts.

He said the Coast Guard had enough equipment to do this and the Blimp and the OPV’s were not necessary. Panday said the Immigration Department was working assiduously to crack down on illegal workers in T&T. “They have been a lot of raids since the People’s Partnership came into power….A lot of Chinese have been detained and deported,” he said. “I don’t have the figures but since we came into power, close surveillance is taking place.” He added that apart from illegal immigration, there was internal human trafficking in T&T, whereby innocent country girls were being lured to Port-of-Spain to work in escort services.

No transparency says Penal chamber head

Meanwhile, president of the Penal Chamber of Industry and Commerce Lincoln Ragbirsingh said something was fundamentally wrong with the system whereby official documents were provided for Chinese workers. “It seems they have an unfair advantage…Locals have to wait for more than a year to get a passport, but the Chinese are coming in and they get in whatever they need in a couple of weeks,” he said.

“It is not fair…The authority has no transparency. “They need to find out who signs off these documents and take action.” Ragbirsingh said the Chinese nationals affected the economy because the Chinese businesses did not patronise the local businessman. “They are in their own world,” he said. “If they are using chemicals to clean, they use chemicals from China. Everything they use is from China. They use products that are not labelled properly.” Though he admitted to having no credible evidence of human trafficking, Ragbirsingh said the deplorable conditions under which some of the Chinese workers lived, as well as the rapid growth of Chinese businesses, made one suspicious.

Already more than 14 new casinos, supermarkets and restaurants have mushroomed along the SS Erin Road, Debe, with only a few offering employment opportunities for locals. Most of the businesses had Chinese workers, some of whom live in the business places, sleeping inside cupboards and on top of kitchen tables, according to health inspectors. But Panday said everything was above board under the People’s Partnership. “Under my watch as far as I concerned, no money ever pass…If I have the slightest indication that there is anything like that, the Government will look into it,” he said. A senior immigration official said the cost of getting citizenship was $840, the cost of acquiring residency was $1,000, while work permits cost $600 monthly.

$5,400 for work permits

But some of the Chinese immigrants say they paid as much as $6,000 for citizenship and $5,400 annually for work permits. Chinese restaurateurs also denied that the process of acquiring official documents was easy for them, although all of them said the fees paid were worthwhile. Chinese businesswoman, Sherry Zhou, who operates a restaurant at Golconda, said she had been in T&T for six years and still had not received resident status. “I like it here, people nice nice so I want to stay,” she said. “I pay $5, 500 to get my work permit…I pay this every year.”

Another Chinese restaurateur, of Barrackpore, named Jun Zheng, said he paid $4,000 per year for a work permit. Both said they were brought to Trinidad by relatives who later applied for the documents on their behalf. Another restaurateur, of Barrackpore, said he paid $5,400 for his permit. At Duncan Village, San Fernando, another Chinese businesswoman said for the past few months, immigration officials had been constantly coming to their businessplace looking for documents. She added that she had been operating a business for the past eight years and had obtained her citizenship. She paid $6,000 for her citizenship papers. She said: “I was lucky. I had two children here and I gave up China. I live here now.” She said the Chinese had contributed positively to T&T and deserved their opportunities.

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Also Read:

The Chinese presence in T&T
The first shipment of 192 Chinese immigrants arrived in Trinidad on a ship named Fortitude on October 12, 1806. And although it has been 205 years since they first arrived, the Chinese immigrants who work in Trinidad have continued to display fortitude in the face of modern-day exploitation. Though the experiment of Chinese labour failed during slavery, the Chinese immigrants forged their legacy and became successful butchers, shopkeepers, carpenters and market gardeners. They brought with them their customs, traditions, games, religion and artifacts. After slavery was abolished, the second wave of immigrants arrived from the southern Guangdong province: an area comprising Macao, Hong Kong and Canton to work as indentured labourers between 1853 and 1866.

8 Responses to “Search on for illegal Chinese immigrants”


  • This is what I have been saying all along. It applies to India and Guyana also. Check EVERYONE with a foreign accent, not just the poor. This is not harassment. It is trying to preserve a small country for its legitimate inheritors. Check HOW the restaurant and casino as well as grocry store owners got their jump start. Those barred gates in St. Clair and other places, gates you can’t see through, are meant to hide a lot. Was not the Dole Chadee compound hidden also behind a high wall with gates you could not see through?

    The first corrupt bunch who get life without possibility of parole must send a clear message.We need to confiscate property also. We need a court for these people to fast track the process. Go after Mr. Bigs and the minnows would drop off. When a Chinese cargo ship docks, do all the CREW return to the ship? Who certifies this? A corrupt customs official in cahoots with a corrupt ship’s captain. There have been no murders on ships heading to TnT that I know of, except on cargo ships from China. What’s in the containers could well be people. It happened in New York many times.
    Now remember the two West Africans who were dropped off in Tobago about seven years ago by a passing cargo ship? That ship must have come back to TnT many times since.

    We have been asleep for too long, treating major criminals as untouchables. Wake up, TnT, we are not trying to cut off the head of a snake but to slay a many headed dragon.

    Wht if the search leads back to senior police officers and government ministers, past and present?

  • The poor people of China need to eat.If Trinis don’t want to work then why stop industrious Chinamen.If these Chinamen and women are being exploited it will only be for a while. And by the way look how Kamla exploiting all the people of this blessed country.

    We have more than enough and as the Holy Koran says: Give on to others and evryone will go heaven wher there must singing and holy prayers..at least that’s what Muhammud said to his people who by the way included some Chinamen and women.

    • China is over 3.7 million sq. mi., and has a GDP of almost six (6) trillion; yet you’re here pleading for the poor Chinaman to poor Trinidadians, whose little island nation is less than 2k sq. mi and has a GDP of twenty-six (26) billion? Where is your sense of relativism?

      If the Chinese are starving let them take their problems to the Chinese leadership. With a population of 1.3 million T&T is already over populated; are you willing to give up your place in “this blessed country” for an illegal Chinaman?

    • M’mud el bakri the koran and Muhammud has nothing to do with what we are talking about,while you are free to express your opinion this is OUR country we are talking about,and by the way you speak you are not from Trinidad.This is not the United States or one of those larger nations,its a small island that is already over populated yet you are over here begging for these illegal immigrants who come here and often break the law,im not just talking about the chinese im talking about people from other CARICOM nations as well especially the Guyanese.The government as well as immigration officials ne to wake up and adress this problem quickly before our country nolonger belongs to us…remember these people come here and multiply and soon the future of our country will be in the hands of foreigners who are just opertunist and not loyalist to our country….

  • People like El Bakri who say Trinis don’t woant to work talk rubbish. That was the cry of the slavewners. People want to work, but theywant a liing wage. All over the world immigrants are imported, legally and illegally, because they will work for cheap.
    A school ditrict in Texas imported six Indian and six Filipino teachers, and took years to reglarize their status, because while they papers were being processed, they were being paid asif they were substiture teachers $60.00 US per day, whilethe beginning salary for an American teacher with less qulifications was $32,000.per annum. $60 per day, for 180 days amounts to $10,800 per annum. See why people everywhere like slavery and cheap immigrant labour.

    When I protested to my principal on their behalf, he said “That’s a lot more than they were making in India.” It got worse. One of the teachers went to Immigration and Naturalization to try to process papers for her husband, an IT guy to come over and work legally. He came as her dependent. She asked what the delay was in getting his work visa. She was told “We wanted you to come. You choose to bring your family, now you have to wait till we get to it.” This was Mr. Bush’s USA.
    The systematic exploitation of the outsider is what makes for profits. Again, check the local people who look like the illegals in the TnT situation.

  • Linda, my friend, at $60.00 per day for substitute teaching, everyone including American nationals are being ripped off.Here, substitute teachers are paid $200.00 per day.(average Canadian sub pay)
    If your beginnng teacher receives $32000 per annum, again you are being exploited in a country as affluent as the USA where people make huge salaries.
    If this is what you pay your teachers, no wonder why your country is in a state of confusion and economic disaster.Your politicans, including Obama are continuously paying lip service to teachers since the beginning of time but no one has made any substantive moves to improve the wages of teachers.

  • The problem is that teachers are not part of the federal system. Each district like Obiocoke, negotiates its on salary. There are wide variances in how teachers are paid. Boston and New Yok pay in excess of $100,000 PA. Its what the dollar buys that ultimately matters. Housing is cheap in the US one can get a brand new 2/3 bedroom house for $90,000, on 5000 square feet. The same house in Canada: Toronto, Mississuaga are the places I know, would cost two and a half times as much.Heating, and cars cost much more also.
    This was not about castigating the US but showing how the weak and the immigrant are always crushed by the strong.It is the basis of all economies. You should investigate the treatment of the indigenous Canadians, before Nanavut was recognized as a separate province with rights to its own mineral wealth.

  • Go ell em Madame L. We enjoy when these unmentionable ,ungrateful Trini ,country leeches, tout the virtues of their new adopted homeland ,Canada, while denouncing big brother America, simply because they are clueless about the former fake progressive/ Liberal country’s inglorious past.
    Well I take that back ,as we the astute ,understands fully , why the likes of T-Man ,and similar pals, would do just that , as they must show gratitude , and display reverence, for being considered refugees,starting in 1986,yes?
    It is right up there with a certain Knighted ,Nobel winner , that lack the guts to denounce England his home sine age 20 ,for all their evils ways as fostered on his people ,left on Miguel Street , and Biswas Lane Chagurnas, but instead would spend the rest of his breathing days , denouncing, demonizing , and blaming similar Afrikan victims, for all the wrongs committed ,since 1962 , and even in a previous life.
    Go figure the ways of of these guys, but in the interim , don’t be too surprise , at the fact that our historically divided / cross tribal country, remains a second rate,underachieving , border line failed country.

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