Interdiction Must Be An Option For Migrant Ships

Interdiction must be an option for migrant ships

Point of View
Peterborough Examiner
September 10, 2010

In the wake of the MV Sun Sea's arrival in Canada with 492 Tamil migrants aboard, Canadians have made it clear they are fed up with immigration fraud.

So, according to reports, the government is considering all options—including interdiction on the high seas.

But interdiction, some experts say, poses problems. For one thing it's facile to assume that a smuggler captain will simply turn about and head home if ordered to do so by a Canadian naval vessel.

What's to prevent the migrants from coming back a week later? Will the Canadian navy now be tasked with escorting such ships all the way back to their points of origin, say in Thailand?

Moreover, immigration lawyers say, there are legal concerns with the idea that Canadian law and Supreme Court decisions don't apply on the high seas. Isn't a Canadian vessel in international waters in effect Canadian territory?

Therefore, the expert consensus holds, interdiction is a superficially attractive but dumb idea. Better to simply root out human smuggling at its source, improve police and diplomatic work overseas and nip it in the bud that way.

All well and good. But what happens if a boat or boats get through?

People with a stake in the Canadian immigration industry — immigration lawyers in particular — have an interest in perpetuating the status quo. They earn their livelihoods from it.

That doesn't mean the system can't or shouldn't change. And it doesn't make interdiction a bad idea, if used as a last resort.

By all means, put investigative and diplomatic measures in place. But if they fail and a boat of smuggled migrants slips through, then interdict. There is no other responsible option.

Already, Canadian attitudes towards immigration have hardened measurably due to the Tamil incursion. If more boats come in that pressure will grow. The result may well be political measures that make interdiction seem benign.

Interdiction can be humane. It simply can't be humane and inexpensive or easy. An interdicted boat would have to be seized, and the passengers sent home on a Canadian-flagged vessel. Medical care, food and other help would have to be provided.

This would be very expensive. But what choice is there, really?

The status quo is no longer an option. Anyone who believes otherwise has not spent enough time listening to Canadians.