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Tamil asylum seekers in Vancouver handcuffed and shackled with leg chains

By Darah Hansen

Handcuffed and shackled in leg chains, more Sri Lankan asylum-seekers were back before immigration officials in Vancouver on Monday, pleading for release from detention.

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Sri Lankan migrants recently arrested aboard a ship brought into Victoria leave a hearing at immigration review board offices in Vancouver. ~ Photograph by: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

But proving their identities continued to be a significant impediment for most of the men, who were among a group of 76 ethnic Tamils apprehended on a mysterious ship off Vancouver Island earlier this month.

Several of the men arrived with no authentic documents to prove who they are.

In one case, a man told Canadian Border Service Agency officers he’d surrendered his own Sri Lankan passport, national identity card and driver’s licence to an “agent” who arranged to take the migrants to Canada for a sum of money. In exchange, the man was given an Indian passport.

Since the ship arrived in B.C. on Oct. 17, Canadian officials have been screening the migrants, and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office has said that the government will exclude any found to have criminal or terrorist ties.

In particular, authorities are worried about possible links to the Tamil Tigers rebels, a registered terrorist organization in Canada.

Indeed, at least one of the asylum seekers is the subject of an Interpol notice for his alleged role in a Tamil Tigers smuggling ring.

That isn’t the case for the majority of the men, however, their Canadian supporters have repeatedly insisted.

Most are described as ethnic Tamils fleeing well-documented violence and oppression at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.

“In my opinion, they all appear to be polite, well-groomed young men,” said lawyer Lee Rankin, who has met and interviewed several of them.

Fifteen of the men were to appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board on Monday during the second week of detention hearings.

Those migrants who arrived without a passport or other form of ID were ordered to remain in custody for another 30 days as the government presses on with efforts to confirm their identities.

Those with valid passports will have their cases heard later this week.

The men are being held in the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre pending their release.

According to Rankin, several of them have friends and relatives in Canada who can offer them food and shelter until their refugee claims are concluded.

One man out of the 76 was offered release from detention last week. The IRB has banned publication of the names and other identifying details of all 76 men.

Sri Lankan refugees have one of the highest acceptance rates in Canada, with 93 per cent of claims in the past nine months accepted.

The recently ended war in Sri Lanka between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels left as many as 100,000 people in the country dead and forced hundreds of thousands of minority Tamils into refugee camps. [courtesy: Vancouver Sun]

6 Comments

Shows inhumane treatment of refugees. I feel ashamed to be a Canadian.

Posted by: Ravi | October 27, 2009 08:22 AM

Wow, I thought this was taken at Guantanamo Bay rather than in Vancouver. So this is how the "Potential-terrorists" are treated in the most refugee-loving country in the world, Canada. It seems after all these hooliganism conducted by former Sri Lankan asylum seekers of certain ethnicity, now the Canadian authorities are correctly identified what kind of people they have to deal with.

Posted by: SLFireBall | October 27, 2009 01:31 PM

This is like falling from the frying pan to the fire. These guys have already suffered very much under Mahinda Rajapaksha's regime in their own country. Now Canadian police to treat these people like common criminals is not the correct way to treat the refugees.

Posted by: Martin Thomas | October 27, 2009 01:46 PM

Good for them for crying out tiger tiger when there was no tiger. Now the tiger is really there, suffer. when people do not know to count their blessings this is what they are dealt out.

Posted by: kk | October 28, 2009 05:28 AM

When so called refugees arrive in a well known Tiger arms smuggling ship, what would you expect the Canadian Govt to do. Terrorists, whether Tamils or otherwise, shoul be treated the same. It is time the Tiger hugging Tamils realize that internationally terrorism and support for terrorism will lead them nowhere.

Posted by: Indrajith | October 28, 2009 06:58 AM

Why are they covering their faces...? Are they worried that people would recognize them on Photos that their Relatives were Holding up for the Western Countries'Audiences claiming they were KILLED or ABDUCTED?

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | October 29, 2009 02:03 AM

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