Canada halts ship carrying Sri Lankan refugees
The Canadian navy intercepted a cargo ship carrying almost 500 Sri Lankan refugees on Thursday and prepared to screen them, fearing some belonged to the defeated Tamil Tigers, the separatist guerrillas who are considered a terrorist organisation in Canada.
After days of tracking by Canadian and US authorities the navy boarded the MV Sun Sea after the ship veered from its expected destination.
Some of the people on the ship are "suspected human smugglers and terrorists", Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said, as quoted by public broadcaster CBC.
In Colombo, Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry said it was waiting for a Canadian investigation to establish the identity of the ship’s passengers.
"We have lodged our concerns with the Canadian authorities that these people aboard the Sun Sea could be linked to the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]," a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in Colombo.
In a separate incident in October 2009, 76 Tamil refugees arrived by boat into Canada - which has among the world's most welcoming asylum policies - where they were held but eventually released after none were determined to belong to the LTTE.
The arrival of this second cargo “puts Ottawa in an awkward position because the government wants to stand firm against this problem while maintaining the country's reputation as a land of hospitality”, says RFI correspondent Anouck Desgroseillers.
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