An immigration lawyer says that the Sri Lankan migrants onboard the MV Sun Sea will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars -- but that investment in the new arrivals just might pay off.

Long before the cargo ship docked in Esquimalt, B.C., on Friday, it was costing Canadians.

Government intelligence officials and the Canadian navy have been tracking the ship for months, and weeks of preparation were necessary in B.C. jails and hospitals.

Now that the 490 asylum-seekers have arrived, they'll need medical care, food, shelter and legal assistance.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland told CTV News that the average cost to get each of the Sri Lankans from the ship to their refugee hearing will be $71,000.

"The costs for the 500 or 490 would amount to $35 million," he said.

Liberal Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin says that's a cost that should be picked up at the federal level.

"The costs of this should not be borne by our local authorities, such as the Vancouver Island Health Authority or our RCMP here. This should be borne by Ottawa," he said.

But Kurland says the multi-million taxpayer investment could be more than paid back by the contributions the migrants will make if they're allowed to stay.

"The data over time clearly shows that these people, when they start working on work permits, pay taxes, and over the next few years they pay back and more the money spent on the first year in Canada," he said.

The new arrivals have a good chance of being granted refugee status. Historically, 91 per cent of claims from Sri Lankans are approved.

And Kurland says that Canadians shouldn't be worried about the migrants taking their jobs.

"The overwhelming majority take jobs that Canadians don't want, and not just one job, multiple jobs, because they have to qualify to sponsor relatives in the years to come," he said.

But not everyone thinks that the new arrivals will be a benefit to Canada.

Tamara Bailey emigrated from Sri Lanka 33 years ago, and she told CTV News she's worried that some of the migrants will send their money to the rebel Tamil Tigers back home.

"I think we need to be really careful who these people are," she said. "(They could) find work and raise funds to start this war all over again."

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson