US embassy cable - 03HALIFAX108


Identifier: 03HALIFAX108
Wikileaks: View 03HALIFAX108 at
Origin: Consulate Halifax
Created: 2003-04-03 20:43:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PHUM SMIG CVIS PBTS EWWT CA Ports Border Patrol Smuggling
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM, SMIG, CVIS, PBTS, EWWT, CA, Ports, Border Patrol, Smuggling 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  The port of Halifax is facing a growing 
problem of stowaways, primarily of Romanian nationality, who 
arrive here hidden in shipping containers on board commercial 
freight vessels originating at southern European ports. 
Certain smuggling rings, probably linked to organized crime, 
appear to be exploiting marine shipping to Halifax as their 
preferred means of getting illegal migrants into North America. 
It is unclear how many of these container stowaways are seeking 
to enter the United States as their final destination.  (END 
3. (SBU) Over the past several years, Canadian authorities in 
Halifax have discovered increasing numbers of intending 
immigrants arriving as stowaways aboard commercial container 
ships bound from southern European ports.  Contacts in the Royal 
Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and in Citizenship and 
Immigration Canada (CIC) have told Congen that, in 2000, they 
arrested at least 25 persons attempting to enter the country in 
this manner.  By 2002, the number had risen to 42.   Although no 
stowaways have yet been intercepted in Halifax in 2003, it is 
too early in the year to identify a trend because most alien 
smuggling of this type occurs during the warmer months of the 
year.  Local officials also acknowledge that it impossible to 
know how many stowaways arrive in Halifax this way without being 
4. (SBU) Marine container stowaways arriving in Halifax are 
predominantly Romanian (at least 90 percent), although a small 
number of Moldavians, Bulgarians, and other Eastern Europeans 
have also taken this route.   According to CIC contacts, they 
tend to be males between the ages of 18 and 45.  Most had been 
living and working illegally for some time in other European 
countries (particularly Italy and Spain), usually in 
construction or as unskilled laborers, prior to embarking. 
About 90 percent claim to have been assisted by a smuggler, who 
brings them into the cargo terminal and places them in a 
container prior to loading.  The intending immigrants are 
responsible for bringing their own food, water, toilet 
facilities, and cutting tools.  Fees for this service generally 
range from 500 to 1,500 Euros.  CIC and RCMP officials strongly 
suspect that  these smugglers have ties to organized crime, but 
they have made no progress in identifying which criminal 
organizations are involved. 
5. (SBU) Smugglers typically place the intending immigrants in 
40-foot shipping containers loaded with heavy goods such as 
ceramic tile, paper, wine, or cognac.  These containers have 
sufficient empty space inside to accommodate the passengers. 
The smugglers instruct their customers to cut themselves out of 
their containers after about two days at sea, once the vessel is 
far enough out to guarantee that the shipQs captain will not 
turn around to put the stowaways ashore at the port of origin. 
Halifax officials are convinced that these smuggling rings have 
accomplices among the stevedores responsible for loading 
vessels, since the containers with stowaways invariably are 
placed along the outside of a stack, allowing the occupants an 
easy exit from the container. 
6. (SBU) In past years, according to Halifax officials, most 
container stowaways had originated from the Italian ports of 
Livorno and Genova.  As recently as late 2001, the RCMP had 
confided to Congen that Italian authorities seemed to show 
little enthusiasm for aggressively combating this type of 
outgoing alien smuggling from their ports.  RCMP and CIC 
contacts, however, now indicate that interest in port security 
measures and cooperation in combating alien smuggling via 
shipping containers has increased markedly among their Italian 
contacts in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.  The RCMP 
believes that port security measures adopted principally to 
combat terrorism are beginning to have a beneficial trickle-down 
effect on attempts to curb this type of illegal immigration. 
7. (SBU) As Italian ports are becoming less accessible, our 
contacts say, alien smugglers are shifting their efforts to 
Spain, transforming Barcelona into the preferred port of 
departure for container ship stowaways.  Officials of the RCMPQs 
Immigration and Passport Section returned last week from a visit 
to Barcelona to improve cooperation and coordination with their 
port security counterparts there.  These officials told conoff 
that the Spanish were cooperative and appear to be making major 
strides in tightening security at the port.  They reported that 
new security measures in the port of Barcelona include a network 
of 65 cameras tied to a central monitoring facility, improved 
access IDQs for port workers, the introduction of electronic 
cargo manifests, gamma-ray scanning devices, and improved 
container seals.  RCMP contacts also report the active support 
of the stevedoreQs union, such as by making clear to its 
membership that any complicity in alien smuggling would result 
in the loss of union membership. 
8. (SBU) Our contacts are cautiously optimistic that cooperation 
with Italian and Spanish authorities will reverse the trend in 
alien smuggling to Halifax via marine containers.  The RCMP, 
however, fears that the criminal organizations that involved in 
trafficking in illegal immigrants might then simply shift their 
efforts to other European ports with easier access.  They say 
that Lisbon could become a venue for such activity because port 
security there has not improved as quickly or as markedly as in 
Italy and Spain. 
9. (SBU) COMMENT:  It is unclear how many of these container 
stowaways are seeking to enter the United States as their final 
destination.  Some of the ships carrying these intending 
immigrants were bound for U.S. ports after leaving Halifax.  We 
will endeavor to get our local police and immigration contacts 
to focus on this question in their future investigations into 
this alien smuggling problem. 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04