Boat with 490 Tamil refugees docks in British Columbia
[TamilNet, Saturday, 14 August 2010, 04:50 GMT]
After spending nearly three months in sea, MV Sun Sea, a 59-metre Thai cargo ship, docked near Victoria, Canada Friday with nearly 490 Tamil refugees who fled Sri Lanka seeking safety and security in a foreign land thousands of miles away from northern Sri Lanka, their place of birth. The Canadian authorities boarded the ship the night before to bring the ship to the shore. 90 women and 45 children are estimated to be part of the migrant group, according to reports from Canada. The political climate will engulf migrants in immigration legal battles especially after the controversy surrounding the detention and later release of 76 Tamil migrants from the ship Ocean Lady last October, relatives of the migrants speculated.
The RCMP boarded the vessel around 7 p.m. Thursday night and travelled with it from Port Alberni down the coast of Vancouver Island to the naval base just west of Victoria. It was towed by two Canadian navy ships and followed by at least half a dozen other vessels while a military helicopter hovered overhead, Toronto Star said of the final hours of the ships journey.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Friday he considers the MV Sun Sea a “test boat” to probe Canada’s receptiveness to ship-borne refugee claims – part of a wider human smuggling operation with designs on sending more illegals here, the Globe and Mail said.
“This particular situation is being observed by others who may have similar intentions and I think it's very important that Canada deals with the situation in a clear and decisive way,” Mr. Toews told reporters in Victoria, where the migrant ship is docked, the paper added.
The Canadian Tamil Congress, a community organization, said in a statement on Friday that MV Sun Sea migrants will receive a Tamil-language notification detailing legal and medical information. The statement — which said “the men, women and children on board have taken enormous risks” to “flee persecution in Sri Lanka” — also said the congress will connect unaccompanied youth with host families from the community, the National Post reported.