In what was to be a routine border patrol, Police yesterday unearthed what could be a major trafficking route on the Mexican-San Diego border. Border Patrol authorities say the tunnel, which is also equipped with a ladder, was discovered after the arrest of 30 people believed to be illegal immigrants. The 30 had just crossed the Otay Messa crossing in San Diego, through the tunnel, when Border Patrol authorities arrested them.

The immigrants included 23 Chinese Nationals, including two women and seven Mexicans which included three women. Police believe that the tunnel has been used for quite some time to smuggle illegal immigrants from Mexico to the US.

Detained

The arrested immigrants were taken to the Border Patrol Station in Chula Vista for further questioning. According to authorities, the tunnel was hidden by branches and dry brush and stretches for approximately one mile. The entrance to the tunnel is situated in a building in the Garita de Otey area in Tijuana. Reports indicate that the tunnel could be an incomplete part of another one that was discovered by Mexican authorities recently.

When Border Patrol agents accosted the illegal immigrants, some tried to flee to freedom, while others attempted to race back to the tunnel they had just emerged from.

US Immigration officials say that tunnels are common along the California-Mexico border but are mostly used to smuggle narcotics. Police say that they have now identified instances, like this one, where tunnels are being used for human trafficking.

New trend

The arrest of so many Chinese illegal immigrants at a go signals a new trend in human trafficking patterns according to authorities.

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In a report published by the Union-Tribune a couple of months ago, Chinese illegal immigrants have been steadily on the rise. Between October last year and May this year, a total of 663 illegal Chinese immigrants have been arrested so far, compared to 48 during a similar period last year.

According to an Immigration official, criminal gangs are responsible for the human smuggling syndicate and often charge between $50,000 to 70,000 per head. The fee usually goes up depending on how far one has to travel.

Another factor that has increased the smuggling fees is the demand by Chinese Nationals to flee their country. A new report indicates that China is the world's leading source of immigrants beating war-torn countries such as Syria, Yemen and Somalia combined.