Diplomats Warned Ottawa Of ‘Perfect Storm’ For Tamil Smuggling

Diplomats warned Ottawa of perfect storm for Tamil smuggling

Colombo field office issued firm warnings of human trafficking boatlifts months before MV Sun Sea arrived in British Columbia

Colin Freeze
Globe and Mail
Monday, Sep. 13, 2010

Diplomats posted to Sri Lanka quietly warned in January of a perfect storm of factors that would result in smugglers targeting Canada for a mass influx of Sri Lankan Tamils.

The warnings from Canadians posted to the Colombo office came months before a suspected human-smuggling operation shipped more than 400 Tamils to British Columbia aboard a vessel known as the Sun Sea.

That voyage prompted moves by Ottawa to deter future ships, including the appointment of a former intelligence chief to work as an international envoy on problem, and an ongoing cabinet discussion of new laws aimed at human traffickers.

But Canadians on the ground in Sri Lanka were delivering firm warnings of further boatlifts months before the Sun Seas arrival.

The economic and social issues caused by the civil war coupled with a relatively wealthy international Tamil diaspora results in a large push/pull factor for human smuggling and trafficking, they wrote in a memo acquired by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland under access to information law.

The memo went on to say that some have called this a perfect storm as overseas friends, family and relatives appear willing to fund irregular migration operations. As Canada has over 250,000 former Sri Lankan Nationals living in the country, Canada will be a target destination.

The officials cited the end of the 30-year Sri Lankan civil war, the vanquishing of the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, and the release of more than 100,000 Tamils from detainment camps and argued this added up to a mass exodus.

Diplomats posted to Colombo said they would endeavour to keep a better eye on who was boarding airplanes still, by far, the preferred travel modality for asylum seekers both in Canada and Sri Lanka.

Referring to the earlier MV Ocean Lady, which arrived in Canadian waters last fall with 76 Sri Lankan Tamils on board, Canadian officials in Colombo were clear in their warning: There remains significant concern that the successful arrival of this group will encourage other vessels to be organized.

Officials fear another ship may be bound for Canada, noting that Australia wrestled with nearly 90 such vessels last year.