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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK

World: Americas

Human smugglers caught off US coast

The immigrants were found in the bow of the boat

More than 130 men, believed to be Chinese, have been found hidden in a ship intercepted off the United States east coast.

Immigration authorities say the incident was clearly one of smuggling.

[ image: Immigrants cling to rocks after landing in Canada]
Immigrants cling to rocks after landing in Canada
One report said the men had to be cut free from an area in the bow of the vessel, which had been welded shut.

All those found were detained after the ship docked in the port of Savannah, Georgia.

The discovery comes a day after Canadian authorities seized a boat carrying about 150 illegal Chinese immigrants in the second such incident in less than a month.

Canadian officials, who had been monitoring the vessel, said it unloaded its cargo on Wednesday in cold, stormy conditions on the remote and largely uninhabited Queen Charlotte Islands, about 500 miles north west of Vancouver.

The ship was intercepted by a military plane as it tried to flee.

The BBC's Ian Gunn: "This is the second group in a month."
Canadian police boarded the vessel and arrested the eight crew of Korean origin.

Children on board

Last month another ship smuggled 128 Chinese to Canada's Pacific Coast.

[ image:  ]
George Varney, of Canada's immigration service, said: "The first vessel had no children. This vessel seems to have a fairly significant number of women, although we don't have an exact count yet, and it has quite a number of very small children."

Canada's immigration minister says in light of the two landings she will review Canada's immigration laws but she is rejecting calls for such ships to be automatically turned away when they enter Canadian waters.

Police and immigration authorities have expressed concerns that Canada may now be facing a human smuggling problem similar to one already experienced by Australia and New Zealand.

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