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Education & Employment

China struggles as illegal foreigners increase

The following article was translated and edited from an article that appeared on the China Huanqiu news website. It remarks on the first several days of the recently announced 100-day crackdown on illegal foreigners, specifically those falling under the much-publicised “three illegal” category, referring to illegal entry, illegal residence, and illegal employment. The article emphasises the strains put on administrative resources and the national job market, discusses the shortcomings of current systems in place for dealing with international visitors and advocates for their reform.

In recent days, police officials in Jilin province‘s Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture and other areas have already begun a high-profile 100-day crackdown on what has become known as the “three illegal” types of foreigners, referring to those who either enter China illegally, overstay their visas, or seek illegal employment. Since China’s Reform and Opening policies of the 1980s, China has seen a consistent yearly rise in the number of international visitors, yet the appearance of “three illegal” foreigners in large numbers poses a serious challenge to authorities: how should China effectively deal with the “three illegal” issue against a background of increasing openness to the international community?

A blow to the national employment situation

“Following the rapid social and economic development of our country, foreigners continue to arrive in China in ever greater numbers, with more and more occupations and purposes for entering, their activities diverse, complex and constantly shifting,” said Vice Minister of Public Security Yang Huanning.

According to statistics released from police officials, the year 1980 saw only 740,000 visits from citizens of other countries, a number that rose to 27,110,000 in 2011. In the past ten years, foreign entries to China have risen at a rate of about 10% annually.

“Following the increase of foreigners in China, issues with ‘three illegal’ foreigners have risen constantly. Which doesn’t just mean more paperwork for the administration; ‘three illegal’ foreigners also include dangerous criminals,” said Xiang Dang, professor of Foreign Affairs at the Chinese People’s Public Security University.

According to a recent survey, illegal residence makes up approximately 80% of “three illegal” cases, with illegal enterers arriving mainly from neighbouring countries, and illegal workers centred mainly in the fields of foreign language education, performing arts, housekeeping and concentrated labour industries, most of them arriving on the premise of study abroad or tourism before seeking illegal employment. The survey also reveals the “three illegal” group even includes some who enter China with the specific intention of participating in illegal activities.

Reports indicate that in 1995 the National Public Security Bureau‘s Department of Entry and Exits handled over 10,000 cases of “three illegal” activity. In 2011, that number doubled.

“Three illegal” foreigners are not simply a challenge to border authorities and social order; they also negatively affect employment and resource distribution for the Chinese population. According to Ren Maodong, member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, improper management of incoming foreigners will damage the employment situation for Chinese citizens, disturb the human resource market, and take up other limited resources.

No specialised detainment facilities

Members of the Ministry of Public Security assert that the administrative problems associated with the “three illegal” issue are numerous, and the difficulty level is high. At present there are no dedicated facilities for the detainment, inspection and deportation of illegal aliens, with containment space and foreign language personnel at existing detention centres always in short supply.

One common situation involves women from bordering countries having illegitimate children with Chinese citizens, often returning again even after legal deportation. Some continue to reside illegally for long periods of time, becoming a problem for the next generation.

Another complication stems from the embassies and consulates of certain countries taking too long to verify the identities of foreign visitors, often very inefficiently. Waiting for the process to complete taxes the financial resources of the Chinese administration, and the situation can get out of control.

As this reporter has come to understand, administrative service for foreigners affects a wide variety of domains, functions and departments, creating the need for a coordination of policies and a better network for sharing information. Some departments have not yet established a system for dealing with foreigners, and those that have established systems have not yet developed fully capable communication networks.

Another huge issue is the sluggish pace of legislation. The current infrastructure for managing and serving foreigners in China was built in the 1980s and 90s; already it is not enough to meet the needs of the current situation.

Translated by eChinacities

About Craig Hill

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