Uphold the Rights of Tamil Migrants!

Uphold the Rights of Tamil Migrants aboard MV Sun Sea

August 11, Vancouver – The immigrant and refugee rights group No One Is Illegal is demanding that Canadian government officials respect the human rights of the estimated 200-500 Tamil migrants aboard the MV Sun Sea. The boat is expected to land by the weekend and the detainees will be transferred to Fraser Regional Corrections Centre and Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, who have both prepared for a 3-4 month incarceration. Based on reports in the media, the group includes up to 100 women and children, and there has been at least one death during the voyage.

According to Magin Payet Scudalleri, a member of No One Is Illegal, “Public officials and the media must refrain from stereotyping these migrants as queue-jumpers or terrorists based on unsubstantiated speculations. The migrants have survived a long and arduous journey in the hopes that the Canadian state will fully comply with its international refugee and human rights law obligations to the right to asylum.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has previously warned that “The association of irregular migration with criminality promotes the stigmatization of migrants and encourages a climate of xenophobia and hostility against them.”

Harsha Walia, member of No One Is Illegal, states “We saw a similar unfounded hysteria last October with the 76 Tamil migrants. All were eventually released when Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) was forced to admit they had no evidence of a LTTE connection. In fact, based on a lack of evidence, CBSA consented to the release of the last group of 25 detained refugees in January 2010.”

“The Canadian government is relying on fear-mongering and racist stereotypes to justify their new prison budget and the violent incarceration of asylum seekers, many of whom are women and children. The Conservative government throws around the catch-all phrase ‘terrorism’ to create an atmosphere of paranoia and to prevent any public or media scrutiny of their actions. This is reflected in a growing trend of anti-refugee policies and sentiments under Minister Jason Kenney,” further states Walia.

Rohan Gunaratna, the Canadian’s government’s primary source, has already been discredited by lawyers as well as an Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator. They have questioned his sources as well as his credibility given his ongoing close relationship with the Sri Lankan government.

In a March 2010 meeting with Kenney, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres warned that refugee claimants from countries with human rights violations including Sri Lanka are faced with a “shrinking humanitarian space”. This is evident in the Australian government’s recent repressive decision to no longer accept refugee claims from Sri Lanka, despite well-documented human rights violations against Tamils and mass displacement into refugee camps. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a panel to investigate war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military against Tamils last year.

Despite this, Kenney met with the Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Ottawa this month to discuss greater cooperation with the Sri Lankan government. “It is clear that the Canadian government is more interested in promoting a relationship with a government known to commit massive human rights violations, military atrocities against civilians, and indiscriminate killings; rather than supporting the victims of such a regime,” further states Scudalleri.

From No One Is Illegal – Vancouver.