Federal court orders Tamil migrant to remain in custody

Posted by admin on Jan 12th, 2011

By SUNNY DHILLON, Globe and Mail, Jan. 12, 2011

I’m not a Tamil Tiger – I only played one in the movies, an MV Sun Sea passenger essentially told border officials soon after arriving in Canada.

The man, one of 492 Sri Lankan Tamils to enter British Columbia on the ship last August, has been ordered to remain in custody by the Federal Court. The Immigration and Refugee Board had ordered his release but the court recently overturned that decision, ruling it was made in error.
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The man – whose name cannot be published and is referred to in court documents as B157 – told the Canada Border Services Agency in September that he was only a fisherman.

He later changed his story and acknowledged he had acted in a film that promoted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a terrorist group banned in Canada. The man told border officials the film was funded by the Tamil Tigers and said he received a great deal of praise for his work.

Several of the man’s other comments also raised CBSA’s suspicions. The man said he had been paid by the Tigers as an athletic instructor and supported their cause. Some of his relatives also fought for the group.

The man initially told CBSA he didn’t owe any money to the smugglers who organized the MV Sun Sea’s journey. He later acknowledged that wasn’t true.

Despite the inconsistencies, the refugee board ordered the man released in November on a $1,000 cash bond. The adjudicator said at the time he was unsatisfied by CBSA’s argument that the man was a flight risk and unlikely to appear for future hearings. The adjudicator described the man as “completely co-operative” and “forthright” with border officials.

The federal government appealed that ruling.

In his decision, Federal Court Justice Yves de Montigny called the refugee board’s assessment of the man’s behaviour “generous” and “not borne out by the evidence.” The judge ordered the man to stay in custody.

“I am … of the view that the [board] member erred in ordering the release of the respondent,” the judge said in his Dec. 20 ruling, recently posted to the court’s website.

A refugee board spokeswoman said the man’s next detention review is scheduled for Jan. 20. A hearing on whether he is admissible to Canada is expected to be heard the same day. Admissibility hearings have also been scheduled for four other migrants.

The man’s lawyer declined comment when reached by phone Wednesday.

The Tamil Tigers lost a decades-long Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. When the MV Sun Sea was nearing Canadian shores last summer, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the voyage had been organized by members of the terrorist group.

CBSA said 146 migrants remained in custody Wednesday, 134 of them men, 12 women.

In another decision recently posted to its website, the Federal Court again overturned a refugee board ruling and ordered an MV Sun Sea migrant to stay in custody.

In that case, a man identified as B236 had been ordered released with conditions despite the fact he acknowledged helping the Tigers run errands as an alternative to paying them taxes. The man insisted he was not a Tiger to border officials.

The Federal Court overturned the man’s release on Dec. 31, again ruling that the refugee board had erred.

CBSA said of the migrants still in custody, 11 remain locked up because of Federal Court stays.

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