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Tamil asylum-seekers are escorted of their vessel by Canadian border agents after MV Sun Sea docked at CFB Esquimalt, near Victoria, on Aug. 13, 2010. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Tamil asylum-seekers are escorted of their vessel by Canadian border agents after MV Sun Sea docked at CFB Esquimalt, near Victoria, on Aug. 13, 2010. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Pregnant Tamils to be held another week Add to ...

Two pregnant women who arrived in Canada on the cargo ship MV Sun Sea will remain in detention for at least another week.

The women, who are being held at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge, B.C., took part in an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing Thursday.

The refugee board ordered them to stay in custody while federal government officials work to confirm their identities and scheduled another hearing for Aug. 26.

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Malini Dyonisius, a lawyer representing some of the migrants, says the women didn't expect to remain locked up for quite so long.

She says the women thought once they arrived in Canada they'd be allowed to go and explore the country, and she's letting them know it could be months before they're free.

The MV Sun Sea arrived at CFB Esquimalt near Victoria last Friday, carrying 492 Tamil migrants.

While female migrants have not been separated from their children, that's not the case for one man and his son, who are being detained in facilities in two different cities.

"Dear father," begins a letter, written by the child, according to a lawyer working for the migrants. "I am happy. I am safe. I am with another child. You do not need to worry about me. I heard you cried," reads the letter, which Luxmi Vasan, a lawyer representing some of the male migrants, said is an account by the child explaining his circumstances.

The seven line-letter, according to Tamil-speaking Ms. Vasan, is handwritten by the child, explaining his condition. Ms. Vasan, who translated the letter, said that she was asked by the child to pass it to his father.

"Do not cry father. Please eat well," says the letter. The boy and man were separated following the arrival of the Sun Sea off Vancouver Island last week. The father is being detained at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and the child is in a Burnaby facility under the care of another woman who was also on board the Sun Sea with her child.

"The two children are of the same age," said Ms. Vasan, who met with the child Thursday morning. The father is due to have his detention review hearing this week.

Ms. Vasan said the child seemed well and happy. "I am staying with auntie [name protected by publication ban] Yours truly." the child wrote. The woman referred to as "auntie" is not a relative of the child.

Ms. Vasan, who is not representing the father in the detention hearings, said efforts are being made to connect the child with family and friends in Toronto, but "the child wants to be with this woman. She is taking good care of him."

Once all of the 492 passengers embarked the Sun Sea, they were each photographed with their identification documents and their belongings.

All of these documents are currently being matched and authenticated by Canada Border Service Agency. If the father's identity remains unknown, he will continue to be held and then will receive another detention review by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board after seven days.

So far, all of the migrants who have had their hearings this week continue to be detained because CBSA has not yet confirmed their identification.

Of the 492 migrants, there are 63 women and 380 men, all who require detention hearings. As of Thursday afternoon, the IRB has eight more women and approximately 132 more men to complete their detention hearings.

The male migrants are being held at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, a medium-security facility for adults which, sources say, cannot house minors unlike the facilities in Burnaby where the women and children are kept together.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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