NEW YORK — The Chinese refugees who braved three months at sea and swam for their lives when their ship ran aground will stay in custody for up to two years to discourage others from making the same treacherous voyage, officials said Monday.
Eight of the would-be illegal immigrants, who paid smugglers up to $30,000 to start a new life in America, died after trying to swim to shore in the early Sunday darkness at a beach in the New York borough of Queens.
Authorities said that 265 were taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, another six remained in area hospitals and five escaped, according to official figures released Monday.
Apparently following instructions from their smugglers, believed to be Chinese gangs, almost all are expected to seek political asylum.
In such cases, immigrants are usually set free and told only to show up for a hearing six months later. Most just disappear.