As a ship carrying nearly 500 Sri Lankan Tamils landed in Vancouver on Thursday, the Canadian public safety minister hinted that the Tamil Tigers were behind smuggling these people into Canada.
After a three-month voyage, the Thai ship 'MV Sun Sea' with 490 Tamils on board was escorted by naval vessels into Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt on Vancouver Island Thursday morning. The asylum seekers would be given medical treatment, photographed and fingerprinted before being sent to detention facilities, officials of the Canadian Border Security Agency said.
With a public outcry across over letting in more refugees when Canada spends millions of dollars on 80,000 asylum seekers already in the country, the government promised to act tough with human smugglers. "We are very concerned that there are elements of the LTTE and the Tamil Tigers on board this vessel,'' Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said at a press conference near the base where the smuggling ship is detained.
He said "suspected human smugglers and terrorists did not come to Canada by accident.'' They chose Canada because of its lax immigration and refugee laws.
To appease the angry public, the minister said, "Any individuals who have engaged in the criminal enterprise of human smuggling will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Since two more human smuggling ships are also reportedly waiting to enter Canada, the public safety minister said, "We want to send a very clear message not only to individuals currently involved but to those watching this situation that this is an act Canada does not encourage. "Human smuggling, illegal migration or any other abuses of Canada's immigration system cannot and will not be tolerated.'' The captain of the ship faces charges and the ship could be confiscated.
This is the second ship to enter Canada bringing Sri Lankan Tamils since the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. Last October, 76 Tamil asylum-seekers landed here on board the Ocean Lady. Pending their cases, most of them are now living in Toronto which is home to about 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils.
Because of its broken immigration system under which anyone can enter this country and file for refugee status on flimsy grounds, Canada has about 80,000 such cases before its immigration and refugee board.
As these cases linger on for years, refugees cost millions of dollars to Canadian taxpayers each year.