CBSA directive on Tamil migrants: Detain, detain, detain

Posted by admin on Aug 4th, 2011

Vancouver Sun, Chad Skeleton Aug 4 2011

After the MV Sun Sea arrived on B.C.’s coast last summer carrying 492 migrants, we filed a number of Access to Information requests to the Canada Border Services Agency for information on the ship and how the migrants were handled. The first batch of records in response to those requests have started to trickle in. So far, they don’t contain anything particularly shocking. However, there was one memo that was kind of interesting. It’s been well-established since the Sun Sea arrived that the federal government has pushed hard to keep migrants in detention until their refugee hearings occur. This memo gives some indication of just how seriously the government is about keeping the migrants in detention:

CBSA Grounds for Detention

The memo gives CBSA employees in the Pacific Region direction on how to deal with migrant cases being heard before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

If migrants don’t have documents, the memo states, CBSA should seek their continued detention. If migrants do have documents, CBSA should still argue for detention on the grounds some of the migrants may be involved in people smuggling. If the IRB orders a migrant released, the memo states, the CBSA should immediately see if they can seek a stay of that order — to keep the migrant behind bars until the case is appealed.

And if all that fails? “The CBSA is to argue for detention on any other applicable grounds” — from danger to the public, human rights violations or that they’re unlikely to appear for a hearing.

It’s only in the last line of the memo that the CBSA notes: “In some cases, there may be no evidence to sustain an argument for detention on any of these grounds.”

Another interesting document we obtained through our Access request was a copy of the CBSA’s detailed plan for how to deal with the migrants. The arrival of the MV Sun Sea was reported in the media for weeks before it actually occurred. This document suggests the CBSA and its partner agencies (like the RCMP) had been planning for its arrival for awhile:


Cbsa Mv Sun Sea Plan

And, finally, this last document appears to be a kind of day-to-day rundown of how the migrant issue was unfolding, from late August to late September. One of the things I thought was kind of interesting was how close of an eye the CBSA kept on media coverage of the migrants’ arrival — and of every single reporter’s question they received. You can check out this earlier blog post for more details on the CBSA’s top-down media relations strategy.


CBSA MV Sun Sea Day to Day

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