Tamil boat costs taxpayers at least $25 million

Posted by admin on Feb 8th, 2011

By BRIAN LILLEY, Parliamentary Bureau, Feb. 8, 2011

OTTAWA — The arrival of the MV Sun Sea off the coast of British Columbia last August has cost Canadians at least $25 million, so far. The ship arrived in Canadian waters in mid-August after a three-month journey from Thailand. The ship brought 492 ethnic Tamils from Sri Lanka to Canada claiming refugee status.

The government released supplementary spending estimates Tuesday morning that show the arrival of the MV Sun Sea had the biggest impact on the budget of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The agency has asked for $22 million to pay for “incremental costs relating to the mass migrant arrival of the MV Sun Sea.”

The RCMP has also had to spend a small fortune because of the ship’s arrival. The estimates show the Mounties want $2.1 million to cover their expenses.

A further $908,000 is allotted to the Immigration and Refugee Board hearings that have been ongoing since the ship arrived.

The spending estimates don’t include the cost of health care the federal government provided for the refugee claimants or a reported $2 million spent to provide legal services for the passengers.

Stephen Harper’s government, which claimed the ship had ties to the terrorist Tamil Tiger group, responded to the Sun Sea with Bill C-49. The bill proposes several changes to the immigration and refugee act, including penalties for refugees who arrive in Canada aboard a ship such as the Sun Sea.

Opposition parties have all said they oppose the bill, in particular sections that would allow those who arrive on such ships to be detained for up to one year while their identity and their refugee cases are settled. The government claims the changes would stop others from taking advantage of Canada’s immigration system. The Liberals, Bloc and NDP all claim the changes are unfair and unconstitutional.

Some passengers from the Sun Sea have been released, but others remain in custody.

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