Tamil migrant with ties to rebel Tigers ordered released

Posted by admin on Mar 8th, 2011

Vancouver Sun, Mar. 8 2011

The Immigration and Refugee Board ordered the release of a Tamil migrant Monday, just days after he was cleared of being a security threat to Canada. The man’s lawyer said the ruling raises questions about the strength of the government’s assertions that some of the 492 migrants who arrived on B.C.’s coast last summer aboard the MV Sun Sea are suspected terrorists.

“Just because the minister says it, doesn’t mean it is so,” said Eric Purtzki.

A representative for the Canada Border Services Agency argued before the Immigration and Refugee Board last month that the migrant -who can only be identified as B173 due to a publication ban -should be denied admissibility to Canada on security grounds because he was a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or Tamil Tigers.

The Tigers were engaged in a lengthy civil war with the Sri Lankan government that ended with the Tigers’ defeat in 2009. The group is considered a terrorist organization and is banned in Canada.

But in a decision dated Feb. 28 and released to reporters late Sunday, IRB adjudicator Marc Tessler wrote that while the migrant had lived and worked for a time in an LTTE-controlled area, the evidence did not show that he had “crossed the line from mere sympathizer or supporter to member” and therefore should be allowed to proceed with his refugee claim.

Faith St. John, a Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman, said Monday that the agency has not decided whether to appeal the ruling.

“The CBSA has an obligation to ensure that anyone coming into Canada does not pose a threat to Canadians and is admissible according to Canadian law,” she said. “CBSA will continue to exercise due diligence in the screening of irregular migrants for both security and criminal threats.”

The agency is seeking the removal of about 30 additional Sun Sea migrants -either alleging membership in the Tamil Tigers or serious criminal pasts. Their admissibility hearings are pending.

Those deemed inadmissible are subject to removal orders, effectively quashing any chance they have of proceeding with their refugee claims.

The immigration board heard last month that migrant B173 fixed buses at a garage run by the LTTE and helped a relative do repairs on motorcycles belonging to LTTE members.

The board also heard that the migrant had helped the LTTE dig bunkers and attended roadside dramas performed by LTTE members.

But Tessler wrote in his decision that while the work he performed may have provided material support to the organization, it “did not rise above the unavoidable dealings” that anyone in the area likely would have had with the LTTE. Similarly, his attendance at roadside dramas and his celebration of Great Heroes’ Day appear to be “merely aspects of community life” in that area.

“He did not think of himself as a member or identify himself to CBSA as a member. He did not make unsuccessful efforts to join the LTTE. In fact he resisted any attempt to be recruited by the LTTE,” Tessler wrote.

“He had no military training or weapons training. There is no evidence that he was involved in the political wing of the LTTE. He did not distribute propaganda nor did he solicit others to join the armed struggle.”

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

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