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Sri Lankan air force soldiers march during a passing out parade at an air base in Ampara, January 9, 2009. (STR/SRI LANKA/REUTERS)
Sri Lankan air force soldiers march during a passing out parade at an air base in Ampara, January 9, 2009. (STR/SRI LANKA/REUTERS)

Globe editorial

Fear of persecution - not then, but now Add to ...

The Immigration and Refugee Board's specific identification of one of its decisions as "persuasive" - in a case about a young male Tamil from Sri Lanka - offers considerable reassurance that Canada's refugee system is working quite well - and that the claims of the Sri Lankans who arrived on two ships on Canada's west coast in 2009 and August, 2010, will be sensibly adjudicated.

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Ken Sandhu, the deputy chairperson of the IRB's refugee protection division, recommended a November IRB decision, by Michal Mivasair, for consideration in future hearings, because it had recognized changes of circumstances. The claimant in the case, a young Tamil man from the north of Sri Lanka, who was never a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, had had a well-founded fear of persecution when he left his country and when he arrived in Canada - but the situation had improved by the middle of 2010, so that he would not now be in danger, if he returns.

The claimant was not a passenger on the Ocean Lady or the Sun Sea. In 2007, he fled Sri Lanka in 2007 for Malaysia, and came to Canada in early 2009, making his claim in the last few months of the Sri Lankan civil war, which was followed by some months of harshly oppressive treatment of enormous numbers of Tamils.

Ms. Mivasair found that the claimant was credible - and still genuinely afraid. But she rightly said that "subjective fear" is not the criterion. If he had ever been seriously suspected of being a Tamil Tiger, he would still be in peril in his homeland, but in fact the Sri Lankan authorities had detained and abused him, and then let him go.

Mr. Sandhu's assertion of this case's value as a precedent gives some reason for confidence that the IRB will make similarly sound decisions when it hears the claims of the two ships' passengers and other Sri Lankan Tamils, that is, in the light of the facts on the ground in Sri Lanka - which have improved.

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