Tamil Migrant Still In Custody Despite Order

Tamil migrant still in custody despite order
Government quickly challenged immigration board order

Last Updated: Thursday, December 10, 2009
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An immigration review board has ordered the release of one more of the 76 Tamil migrants who came to Canada's West Coast aboard a freighter in October, but the man remains in custody after federal Justice Department lawyers filed documents Thursday to keep him in detention.

It would have been the first release since one migrant was freed in October. Like all of them, he cannot be identified and the reasons for his release remain under a publication ban.

Once the immigration board gave its order for the man's release Wednesday, the federal lawyers who have attended all hearings involving the migrants immediately served his defence lawyer with documents seeking a judicial review.

That review will not be heard by the Federal Court until Jan. 11, meaning the migrant will remain in jail for at least another month.

The migrants all of them men and all now detained in Vancouver were aboard a ship that was intercepted by the RCMP on Oct. 17 off the coast of Vancouver Island and towed to Victoria.

Government suspects terrorist ties

The ship carried the name Ocean Lady but has since been identified by investigators as the Princess Easwary. The vessel once transported weapons and munitions for the Tamil Tigers rebel group, which fought a long and bloody civil war with the government of Sri Lanka.

Up to now, the migrants have been turned down for release because immigration adjudicators have accepted federal government arguments that the migrants are suspected of having ties to the Tigers, a banned group in Canada.

The key government witness has been Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna.

Defence lawyers have alleged that Gunaratna is not credible and is biased because of his links to the Sri Lankan government.

The Canada Border Services Agency has maintained that all the migrants must be detained until they can prove they are not connected to the Tamil Tigers.

The lawyer for the migrant who was ordered released Wednesday provided evidence that the government's suspicions of his client's ties to the terrorist were not sufficiently strong to keep him in custody, the adjudicator said.