Up to 50 Tamil migrants in BC soon to be released: immigration lawyer

Posted by admin on Dec 25th, 2009

By Tamsyn Burgmann, Canadian Press, Dec 25, 2009

VANCOUVER, B.C. — About 50 Tamil migrants taken into custody off B.C.’s West Coast will soon be released and allowed to settle with their families already living across the country, says an immigration lawyer representing several of the men. Immigration officials will be working through the holidays to process many of the men held in detention for two months after arriving on the Ocean Lady freighter in October, said Narindar Kang. “The writing is on the wall and we’re just waiting to schedule a date. It is, in essence, an agreement between both counsel,” he said Friday.

The ship was intercepted in Canadian waters on Oct. 17 after crossing the Pacific from Sri Lanka. The group claims they were fleeing persecution after the country’s bloody 26-year civil war.

Twenty-three men had been ordered released by the Immigration and Refugee Board as of Thursday and more than two dozen more would likely be freed within the first week or two of January, Kang said.

“Not only have there been formal orders, either by joint submission or by application of the detainees, but the other counsel have been receiving letters saying ‘We are amenable to have your client released before we go to court,”‘ Kang said.

“I don’t anticipate that there’s going to be any issues with these individuals.”

The remaining men in detention are being held on the basis of information that hasn’t been revealed to them or their lawyers, Kang said. He and his colleagues will bring in special advocates to aid the detainees on these cases.

While the government has, in many cases, worked with the lawyers to devise mutually agreeable terms of release, it has also raised security questions about some of the men.

There are concerns the migrants may include those who may have links to the Tamil Tigers, the military arm of the Tamil separatist movement that’s been at war with the Sri Lankan government for decades.

“We’re hoping the nature of that evidence can be examined in a fairly quick fashion,” he said.

Of the larger group to be released sooner than later, Kang says most have family members already living in Canada.

“Siblings, parents, cousins, in many cases immediate family members, and if not that than certainly extended family are here,” he said.

“There’s a strong foundation for their refugee claims. That’s I think why – given the timing now and given the fact that at the public expense they’ve been detained for over two months – it wasn’t making sense to the decision makers that they be detained further.”

Officials with the Immigration and Refugee Board couldn’t be reached for comment.

The migrants will be released on restrictions, including bonds in the range of $2,000 to $10,000, and requirements to report weekly and not associate with terrorist groups.

The majority plan to move to Toronto, while others will go to Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver.

“Many of these young men are highly educated professionals,” Kang said.

“Once time passes and people come to know (this, they will realize) they never posed a threat and those individuals certainly should have been released a long time ago.”

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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