Twenty-one aliens who bolted from guards during a stopover at Miami International Airport paid at least $3,000 each to be smuggled into the United States, an immigration official said yesterday.
Eight of the 21 men, all believed to be Egyptian, were still at large, but they posed no security threat and were not considered dangerous, said Perry Rivkind, district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The travelers, who entered the United States without visas Friday from Quito, Ecuador, paid a smuggling ring $3,000 each for airline tickets and possibly an additional fee to get into the country.
"It is a substantial amount, but not unusual," Rivkind said. "There are people who have paid more to enter this country illegally."
It was unclear how the smuggling ring operated or how many Middle Eastern aliens have been brought into the United States by similar means. Rivkind said Friday's incident was the first in Miami.
Twelve of the 21 men were caught trying to hire taxi cabs at the airport and a 13th was picked up a short time later before he could leave the airport grounds, Rivkind said. They were being held at the immigration service's Krome Avenue detention center on $25,000 bond.