Gov't prepared for arrival of Sri Lankan migrant ship
The Ministry of Defence says it is prepared to intercept a migrant ship, reportedly carrying about 200 suspected Sri Lankan asylum seekers, that is due to arrive on B.C.'s coast in the next few weeks.
"We've been tracking this vessel for some time," Defence Minister Peter MacKay said. "We'll have ships in Canadian waters as they approach, and then an assessment will be done with information we currently hold and anything we'll be able to garner from direct contact."
Health Canada will also be prepared to deal with any passengers who are sick after potentially spending months at sea, MacKay added.
Few details about the ship and its passengers have been revealed, though reports suggest it is carrying men, women and children from Sri Lanka.
Earlier this month, a Sri Lankan newspaper warned that a vessel known as the MV Sun Sea had departed carrying several members of the Tamil Tigers, a group banned in Canada as a terrorist organization.
Immigration lawyer Doug Cannon said if the migrants are Sri Lankan, many will likely seek asylum as refugees.
"If you are perceived by security forces in Sri Lanka as being a past or current problem to the government, you can expect to be treated very poorly," he said. "They're afraid of being jailed, they're afraid of being tortured, they're afraid of being presumed guilty instead of presumed innocent."
The war between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil rebels, which lasted 26 years, ended last May.
Cannon represented many of the 76 Sri Lankan men who arrived in B.C. last October aboard the Ocean Lady vessel. They were arrested by the Canadian Border Services Agency, detained for three months and released after investigators determined they had no ties to terrorism.
"They are all doing exactly what they should, following their terms and conditions," he said. "No one has disappeared and they are all in the refugee process."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson