In early July, 18 Sri Lankans were found dead in a locked shipping container about 20 miles east of the Austrian border, where they had been left by the driver who was to take them illegally to Germany. Most had paid from $800 to $5,000 to be flown to Moscow on 10-day student visas, then taken by truck and train across Eastern Europe. The final leg of the journey was in shipping containers that held 18 to 20 persons each mounted on trucks.
Many of the Sri Lankans sold assets at home to finance the trip. Some reported that they were told they would receive DM10,000 and a job upon their arrival in Germany.
Alien smuggling is believed to be a $1 billion per year business. In the first half of this year, Hungarian authorities found more than 4,000 illegal immigrants and arrested more than 200 human smugglers. Corresponding figures for the same period last year were somewhat less than 4,000 illegal migrants and 140 immigrant smugglers.
Polish employment officials estimate that the number of illegal foreign nationals working the country is more than 100,000. The State Labour Inspectorate claims that the figure may be as high as 200,000.
Most illegal foreign workers in Poland come from Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus, but in border towns, there are also illegals from Vietnam, Bulgaria and Romania, many working as street vendors.
Since March 1995, Lithuania has tightened controls along its border with Poland to prevent alien smuggling. In February, 1995, before the controls, 17 Lithuanian planes flew to Poland with planeloads of refugees.
Poland claims that the flights are organized by illegal transport companies who are moving Asians to the West via Moscow. Officials expect that with the tightening of the border with Poland, smugglers will shift their operations to Belarus and the Ukraine.
Lithuania became the first of the Baltic countries to adopt a law on refugees and asylum seekers. According to the UNHCR, the legislation means that asylum seekers in Lithuania will no longer be considered illegal migrants, and they will not face detention or deportation.
Some estimate that there are 500,000 illegal aliens around Moscow, 20,000 illegal Chinese aliens warehoused in Prague, 30,000 in Austria and perhaps 100,000 in France, most of them bound eventually for the United States.
Jane Perlez, "Third world migrants risk hell for dream," New York Times, July 21, 1995. . Eszter Szamado, "Truck death of Sri Lankans sheds light on Hungarian route of immigrant," Agence France Presse, July 18, 1995. "Sri Lankan Migrant Deaths," MTI Econews, July 17, 1995. "Labour Inspectors Fight Illegal Employment, Polish News Bulletin, July 10, 1995. "Lithuania adopts refugee law," Agence France Presse, July 7, 1995. "Strengthened security on Lithuanian-Polish border net 27," Lithuanian Radio, May 10, 1995.