‘One principle of asylum law is that you seek protection at the first available opportunity. You don’t asylum shop,’ said Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. These are important words in a world where asylum is a heavily traded commodity, with both calculating Tamils and human smuggling mentors seek to score high of the asylum shopping list by vilifying Sri Lanka on human rights.
Minister Kenney was quoted in the Canadian National Post when it ran a prominent piece on February 9, on the first public hearing of the claim for asylum in Canada by 76 Sri Lankan Tamils who arrived there on the human smuggling vessel MV Ocean Lady more than two years ago. He said none of those on board the Ocean Lady had come directly from Sri Lanka. “Some passed through two or three countries”. Kenney’s position was that people who transit through multiple countries have had other opportunities to seek protection.
The hearings into the asylum claims by the 76 Sri Lankans who were smuggled into Canada is expected to have a serious impact on Canadian political thinking and laws on the granting of asylum there. Stopping human smuggling ships became a Canadian government priority after the arrivals of the Ocean Lady and the MV Sun Sea, which reached Canada in 10 months carrying 492 Sri Lankans.
A Conservative Anti-human Smuggling Act is now before Parliament, the National Post reported.
A photograph of a leading representative of Amnesty International in Canada with the cheque for 50,000 Canadian dollars obtained from the Canadian Tamil Congress. Also, here is your link to the CTC’s fund raising for AI- http://www.youtube.com
While the bill has not yet become law, federal lawyers appear to be paying close attention to the Ocean Lady hearings. Significantly, the Canada Border Services Agency has filed notice that it intends to intervene in each of the 76 cases, the National Post said.
According to evidence already available, the smuggling of these Tamils was organized by a Bangkok-based human smuggling ring. The Ocean Lady sailed from Indonesia and made stops in Thailand and the Philippines before it was intercepted by the Canadian Navy and RCMP off Vancouver Island on October 17, 2009.
All those on board made refugee claims. They were later released and most moved to Toronto, home to a large ethnic Tamil Sri Lankan population, reportedly the largest number of Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates in any country, many of them very actively supporting the politics of the LTTE, and very keen on raising funds and carrying on propaganda activities against Sri Lanka.
The four suspected operators of the smuggling ship were arrested in Toronto last June on human smuggling charges.
At last Monday’s hearing, a Tamil asylum seeker said after his father disappeared in 2000 he was ‘relentlessly’ sought by the rebel (LTTE) recruiters but his mother fended them off by giving them money, some of which was sent by his uncle in Canada. He said he had never joined the LTTE. But under questioning, he was asked to explain why he had given several notably different versions of his story. For example, while he wrote in his refugee claim he was ‘relentlessly’ recruited by the LTTE, he told an immigration official upon arriving in Canada they had only asked him to join once, while when he testified Monday it happened just ‘two or three’ times.
In a situation where credibility is often a key issue in refugee hearings, this man had also contradicted himself on matters such as whether his siblings had been targeted by recruiters, whether one or two uniformed men had abducted him and on details of how he was released after his abduction. A decision on this hearing in not due till next month, but there is reportedly much concern among the pro-LTTE expatriate Tamil community in Canada about the turn of events from these hearings, and the need for different strategies to show Canada and other Western countries that Tamils in Sri Lanka continue to live in danger.
This is where Amnesty International (AI) comes into the picture. There is no doubt that AI has a commendable record on many issues of human rights and related matters through many years. But its record of deception on Sri Lanka goes far beyond being misled to one of deliberate distortion of facts. Its record of bias against Sri Lanka came into the open a few months ago when the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) held a Walk-a-thon to raise funds - yes 50,000 Canadian dollars for the express purpose of funding AI. CTC is very emphatic that it is not a front organization for the LTTE. In fact it is known to take offence at being so described.
We will not do so, but state that its activities are so close to that of other organizations that admitted front organizations for the LTTE and the promotion of its ideology of separatist terrorism to create a Tamil homeland or Eelam in a part of Sri Lanka. This puts AI in a tough corner when it accepts funds from CTC, while steering an international campaign against Sri Lanka, on the same issues that interest the CTC.
Allegations of war crimes
It is interesting to know more about the CTC. Among its mission and objectives are to “Work with various levels of governments in Canada to highlight and resolve issues impacting Tamil Canadians,” and “Cooperate with Canadian and international organizations in alleviating the suffering and provide humanitarian assistance to Tamils worldwide,” as well as “Recognize and support the social, cultural and political aspirations of the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka and worldwide.”
The CTC is very strong in its criticism of Sri Lankan government’s treatment of Tamils and is especially supportive of allegations of war crimes and violation of Humanitarian Law by Sri Lanka in the final phases of the military operations to defeat the LTTE.
Its views on these matters are very close to those of pro-LTTE Tamil organizations in the West. It is highly critical of the LLRC report taking up positions not different to that of such pro-LTTE groups as well as AI, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group that refused to give evidence before the LLRC.
The CTC in its preliminary response to the LLRC report states that “in the months leading up to the release of the LLRC report, the commission was widely dismissed by international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, who in a critical report, described the process as 'flawed at every level' and severely falling short of international standards”.
AI that now benefits from the CTC funding has continued a campaign directed against Sri Lanka and continues to use the highly questionable Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka's Killing Fields’ in its campaign calling for an international probe into allegations it makes against Sri Lankan authorities.
When AI gets a donation of 50,000 Canadian dollars from the CTC, obtained by the sweat of a walk-a-thon for the purpose, there are immediate questions as to the independence or objectivity of AI in its attitude to Sri Lanka, and about its entire strategy that targets Sri Lanka on alleged violations of humanitarian law and its campaign to drag Sri Lanka before an international tribunal on alleged war crimes.
If ‘one principle of asylum law is that you seek protection at the first available opportunity: You don’t asylum shop,’ as Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said, it must also be a guiding principle of those who claim to champion human rights and humanitarian law not to shop for funds from those who are ready to blind themselves to the worst brutalities and savagery of a terrorist organization, such as the LTTE.