Economy

Beware aliens

China’s new population problem: illegal immigrants

Another illegal immigrant evicted from Guangdong’s promised land

When people talk about China’s illegal immigrants, they tend to focus on the outbound traffic, and on tragic stories of snakeheads smuggling their human cargo to Europe or the US.

But the Chinese aren’t the only ones chasing economic opportunity, and traffic has started to flow in the opposite direction.

Last December we wrote about coastal factories in the south that were shipping in cheap migrant labour from Vietnam (WiC89). And now one province is taking the lead in trying to quench the flow of illegal arrivals.

Guangdong has just enacted new rules on offences such as illegal entry, overstaying, working without permits or conducting business without a license.

The regulations target property owners who provide lodging for illegal immigrants, as well as business bosses who employ them. Firms or individuals providing accomodation or bank accounts for foreigners without valid travel documents, or who have overstayed, will be fined up to Rmb10,000.

Guangdong’s robust local economy has attracted a growing number of foreigners, with companies discovered to be using illegal workers from Africa, the Middle East, Vietnam and Myanmar, says the China Daily.

“We still have to wait and see whether the new rule will have any impact on foreign employment in the province,” Max Zenglein, an official with the German Chamber of Commerce told the newspaper. The province has around 63,000 registered foreign residents and gets 4 million authorised visitors a year.

But the policy’s most likely target – rogue factory owners – could prove hardest to rein in. Xinhua estimates that Guangdong is short of a million workers (although there are contrary opinions on this, see last week’s Talking Point). If it comes to a choice between keeping the factory running and hiring immigrants without permits, many bosses may choose to risk the fine.


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