Montreal Stowaways Thought They Were Headed To Italy, Spain

Montreal stowaways thought they were headed to Italy, Spain

By Anne Sutherland
Montreal Gazette
October 8, 2010

Nine foreign nationals who stowed away in Morocco aboard the MSC Lugano container ship that docked at the Port of Montreal are being detained by Canadian immigration officials.

MONTREAL—The story of how nine people illegally boarded a ship that docked in Montreal this week emerged Friday at a hearing before a commissioner of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The nine young Moroccans who stowed away on a Montreal-bound cargo ship did not pay vast sums to a smuggling network they were just young men who thought they'd find work in a foreign land.

And they had no idea the ship they chose was heading to Canada. Seven of the nine are seeking asylum and two are not.

These details emerged in a detention hearing held for one of seven stowaways. A partial publication ban means that the asylum-seeking individual who was heard Friday cannot be identified by name, age or other details that would give away his identity.

The young man had neither a passport nor any official identification papers when he was apprehended. IRB commissioner Marisa Musto recommended he be held for another seven days, to give him a chance to contact his family and get proper identification.

The detained man said he'd never owned a passport and a search of his belongings and the container did not uncover one.

The nine friends hatched a plan four days before they left port to hide on a ship and seek their fortune, the man seeking asylum told investigators. The young man testified he thought he was going to Spain or to Italy.

The stowaways were discovered four days out to sea, and initially claimed to be from Iraq.

Initially, the nine hid in a shipping container. Asthma inhalers were found in the container, and the men told Canadian authorities they were used to combat the bad air quality.

RCMP and the CBSA asked him who had organized the trip, and he responded that no one helped them, they just got on a boat after discussing the matter for four days.

The only possessions the man had besides his clothes were a cellphone and a key for a motorcycle. He said he does not know his family's phone number by heart and it is on his phone, which was confiscated.

“My goal was to go on a boat and get work to support my family,” he said through his interpreter.