Making Noise for Jailed Tamil Refugees

Posted by admin on Sep 25th, 2010

by Dawn Paley, Vancouver Media Coop. Sep 25

Saturday marked the third noise demonstration outside of Burnaby jail where Tamil women and children are detained. More than two dozen people gathered outside of a Burnaby jail today to make noise and show their support for the 25 Tamil women and 44 children being held inside the jail. Four hundred and ninety two Tamil refugees arrived on the shores of Vancouver Island aboard the MV Sun Sea on August 12. It is believed that many of the Tamils on the ship were fleeing Sri Lanka after their release from internally displaced peoples’ camps, where they were living during the intense war in their territory. According to Fathima Cader, from No One Is Illegal, when Tamil people are released from the camps, they return to bombed out villages and face harsh conditions, including disappearances and sexual harassment.

Save for access to translators from the Canadian Border Services Agency, the women and children inside the jail have little contact with the outside world. “Having some sense that there are some people out here, I think in some senses it humanizes their detention,” said Cader. “We want for them to know we’re here, and the noise, we get people out to make noise and make it an interactive experience.”

Today’s noise demonstration, which featured Tamil music and demonstrators with air-horns, pots and pans, and horns, was the third consecutive weekend effort to let the people inside know that they have support on the outside.

“We do know they can hear us, because we’ve seen them through the window waving, and from the little that we do know, they do understand why we’re here, and they like hearing the Tamil music,” said Sozan Savehilaghi from No One Is Illegal.

The men who arrived aboard the MV Sun Sea are being held in a jail in Maple Ridge, and at least one father is being kept away from his son, who is in the care of one of the women.

“We don’t know very much about their situation at all,” said Savehilaghi.

Harsha Walia, also from No One Is Illegal, spoke at the demonstration, noting that other migrants who are in detention in Ontario are aware of the noise demonstrations that have been happening in support of the Tamil women and children.

“They want us to know, and they want us to remember that one of the most meaningful things they have heard about since their time inside is that is the fact that people are out here,” she said.

There is another noise demonstration planned for Sunday, October 3rd.

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