28 Sri Lankan Asylum-Seekers Ordered Released

28 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers ordered released;
The men, who were among 76 ethnic Tamils apprehended on a rusted ship off Vancouver Island, have spent more than two months in detention

Canwest News Service
Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 | 5:20 am

After spending more than two months behind bars, 28 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers have been ordered released by immigration officials following a series of detention hearings in Vancouver.

“There have been, indeed, some releases,” Paula Faber of the Immigration and Refugee Board said in an interview Thursday.

The men were among a group of 76 ethnic Tamils apprehended on a rusted ship found floating off Vancouver Island on Oct. 17.

Several of the men arrived with no authentic documents to prove who they are.

In one case, a man told Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) officers he'd surrendered his own Sri Lankan passport, national identity card and driver's licence to an “agent” who arranged to take the migrants to Canada for a sum of money. In exchange, the man was given an Indian passport.

Since the ship arrived in B.C., Canadian officials have been screening the migrants, and the immigration ministry has stated the government will exclude any found to have criminal or terrorist ties to the Tamil Tigers, a registered terrorist organization in Canada.

Until last week, lawyers acting on Canada's behalf had argued for the continued detention of the vast majority of the men on the grounds they may be a threat to national security.

However, that broad opposition to their release was dropped last week after the IRB ordered that four of the men be freed.

In the days since, 24 more men were ordered released, while further detention hearings are scheduled to begin again next week for those remaining.

The men all of whom have made refugee claims are being held in the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

It was not clear Thursday how many if any of the 28 men ordered released have been freed from detention. That decision falls to the CBSA after ensuring each man has met the conditions of his specific release order.

Generally, the men have each been ordered released on a cash bond, and the bondsperson required to file an affidavit establishing his/her relationship to the person concerned.

Most of the men are expected to relocate to the Toronto area, pending the outcome of their refugee claims.

Sri Lankan refugees have one of the highest acceptance rates in Canada, with 93 per cent of claims in the past year accepted.

The recently ended war in Sri Lanka between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels left as many as 100,000 people in the country dead and forced hundreds of thousands of minority Tamils into refugee camps.