Canadian Government to discuss ways to halt Lankan Tamil migrant rush

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TORONTO - Having been warned eight months ago about a sudden rush of Lankan Tamil refugees, the Stephen Harper-led Conservative Government in Canada is likely to discuss and decide next week options for discouraging future vessels of refugee claimants.

Measures under consideration are believed to include intercepting ships at sea, enacting harsher penalties for those behind the smuggling operations and striking deals with allies to stop boats before they head to Canada, the Globe and Mail reports.

According to documents recently released, the Harper government had readied measures to deter boatloads of illegal migrants - like the 490 Tamils who rode the MV Sun Sea to Canada in August.

Immigration experts now say this is surprising, given that the Conservatives began talking publicly about a crackdown on human smuggling only when the Sun Sea neared Canada last month.

The Immigration and Refugee Board ordered the first of the Sun Sea arrivals in British Columbia released from detention on Monday.

The refugee claimant, a pregnant woman with three children, could be freed after she provides an address where she will be staying.

Government records show that red flags were being raised about a mass influx of “irregular migration” by Tamils months before the Sun Sea appeared on Ottawa’s radar.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland obtained the documents under the access to information law.

Canada has over 250,000 former Sri Lankan nationals living in the country, nad therefore, as far refugees were concerned, it was the ideal target destination, say the documents.

The Harper government on Monday declined to elaborate on how it responded to the January alert, citing “operational security.”

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews would say only that the report was correct and that “the government has been receiving intelligence and working on this file for many months.” (ANI)

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