Smugglers are preparing to ship at least 400 more Sri Lankan refugees and potential Tamil Tiger rebels to Canada from Southeast Asia, intelligence officials told the Canadian federal government.
“There are two separate smuggling syndicates organizing two boats from two unnamed southeast Asian ports to the B.C. coast”, Montreal Gazette reported quoting a well-placed federal government source.
“The syndicates, as far as our intelligence tells us, have not gotten ships, they’re in the process of trying to find ships, each capable of carrying 200 to 300 passengers.
These (two) are the ones that we are aware of. There could be more.”
Some passengers are now being marshalled to staging areas and, “waiting for a boat to appear”.
The official said Canadian authorities expect members of the outlawed LTTE organization will hide among the other migrants.
Departure dates depend on weather, with March now considered a possibility, the Montreal Gazette said.
Last August, about 500 Sri Lankan refugee claimants, including a handful the government suspects of being Tiger rebels, arrived off Vancouver Island from Thailand on the smuggling ship MV Sun Sea. The government claimed Tamil Tigers were on board and that the rebel network was involved in organizing the ship’s voyage from Thailand.
Another ship, Ocean Lady, arrived in October 2009 with 76 Sri Lankans from Malaysia.
An official said Canada “has started the process of discussing,” how to disrupt the suspected upcoming operations with the countries involved. But “it’s their sovereign land, there’s very little we can do.”
After the Sun Sea, Thai “authorities figured it out pretty quickly. It wasn’t in their best interests to allow this to keep happening because it would cause a huge influx of refugees and potential terrorists and they didn’t want a Tamil Tiger base set up in Thailand.”
Once smuggling ships set sail, there is little that can be done beyond monitoring their progress.
“Smugglers don’t care — it’s money to them, just like anything else. If they’re confronted on the high seas, they’ll start throwing people overboard or they’ll scuttle the ship. It puts us in a really bad place.”
In December, a female Sun Sea passenger was ordered to remain in detention after a Canada Border Services Agency representative alleged that a piece of jewelry linked her to the Tamil Tigers. It was also alleged her workplace received funding from the same group.
The Sun Sea affair prompted the Harper government in October to propose human-smuggling legislation to toughen jail terms and fines for those found guilty of human-smuggling and penalize asylum-seekers who are deemed to have paid human-smugglers to get them to Canada. Some on the Sun Sea reportedly paid $40,000 for the voyage.
Migrants also could be detained for a year or more without review and they would be barred from becoming permanent residents for five years, even if their refugee claim is accepted.
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