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The migrant ship Ocean Lady carried a group of asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka. (Richard Lam/ Reuters/Richard Lam/ Reuters)
The migrant ship Ocean Lady carried a group of asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka. (Richard Lam/ Reuters/Richard Lam/ Reuters)

Migrants face hearings for human smuggling Add to ...

The first migrant from the MV Sun Sea to face an admissibility hearing and possible deportation for human smuggling will appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board on Thursday.

The man – who can’t be identified because of a publication ban – was one of 492 Tamils who arrived in B.C. last August. All made refugee claims, but 41 have been referred to the IRB for an admissibility hearing. Those deemed inadmissible are ordered deported.

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Two of the Sun Sea migrants have been ordered deported so far on grounds they were members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a terrorist organization banned in Canada. The Tamil Tigers lost the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war in 2009.

“Thursday will be the first of the admissibility hearings for people from the MV Sun Sea where the Canada Border Services Agency has made an allegation that the person concerned is involved in people smuggling,” said Melissa Anderson, IRB spokeswoman.

Ms. Anderson said of the 41 cases that have been referred to the IRB, about 15 are for people smuggling. Some of the alleged smugglers, she said, are also accused of being Tamil Tigers.

Thirty-four of the migrants – all men – remain in detention. An admissibility hearing for one of the migrants accused of being a Tamil Tiger was held Wednesday in Vancouver.

The Sri Lankan man, who also can’t be identified because of a publication ban, has been in detention for nearly eight months, partly because of a letter sent by his wife.

The couple married in Sri Lanka and upon her return to Canada, where she resides, the wife filed sponsorship papers. The husband and wife waited three years for word from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, but the stress of that wait took its toll on their relationship.

The wife decided to end the marriage and sent a letter to immigration officials in which she asserted her husband was a member of the Tamil Tigers and asked that her application be withdrawn.

She told the IRB on Wednesday that the letter was a complete and utter lie.

“The sponsorship was taking too long. They took almost three years to process it so the relationship started to break down. I was really angry at him,” she said, adding her husband had started drinking.

“I couldn’t think of anything, I couldn’t include any personal information, so I just made up the story.”

The couple reconciled a few months later and the wife has since filed another sponsorship application.

Kevin Hatch, the CBSA’s hearing representative, said the letter wasn’t the only evidence the man was a Tamil Tiger. He said the man previously applied for refugee status in the United Kingdom and told officials there he was a member of the LTTE.

The man told the IRB he had been advised by his British lawyer to lie about his background to try and strengthen his refugee claim. He said he has been completely forthright with Canadian officials and is not a member of the LTTE, nor does he sympathize with their actions.

He said he was kidnapped when he was last in Sri Lanka and fears what will happen to him if he returns.

Laura Ko, the IRB’s adjudicator, reserved her decision.

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