Liberal Markets and the Republic of
Europe: Contextualizing the Growth
of Transnational Organized Crime
In June 2000, the bodies of fifty-eight Chinese illegal immigrants into
Britain were discovered in an airtight container at the Channel port of Dover. The find finally produced some public debate about transnational criminal involvement in illegal immigration into Britain. The debate encouraged some awareness of the kinds of issues that have been under active discussion since the turn of the century in most other European Union (EU) member states.
The responses to the incident were, however, entirely predictable. The first was to berate governments, especially national governments, for their failure to prevent such a tragedy. Although the EU has, since 1998, been involved in negotiations with African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries on a new Lomé Convention, with a view to harmonizing approaches to the repatriation or expulsion of people “illegally present” within the EU, meetings in December 1999 failed to reach agreement on the procedures to be followed with respect to immigrants for whom no EU or ACP country was prepared to accept responsibility (Statewatch 2000, pp. 1–3; see Chapter 6). This failure surfaced in many press reports in Britain as one of the factors contributing to the growth of illegal immigration into and across the EU (Burke et al. 2000). By implication, the failure of governments, both at the national and at the European level, to agree on fast-track measures to repatriate illegal immigrants is seen as the fundamental reason why immigrants continue to flow across national boundaries into and within Europe, in spite of the heroic efforts of police and customs officials to stop them.
The second response was to explain the event as resulting from the activities of a conspiratorial group of organized criminals from abroad. In this instance, the group identified was the “Snakeheads, ” based in Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang provinces in southern China, the areas