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Canada sets free 8 Sri Lankan Tamil migrants from detention

2009-12-24 09:38:06
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Eight Sri Lankan Tamil migrants who were among 76 men taken into custody off Canada's B.C. West Coast in October were ordered released from detention clearing the way for them to settle in cities across Canada and pursue their claims as refugees.

The men, who cannot be identified as a result of a publication ban, were among 15 migrants that had detention orders quashed this week in hearings in Vancouver before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Reflecting a new approach to the high-profile refugee cases, Canada Border Services Agency worked with lawyers for the migrants to set out mutually agreeable terms to allow the men to move out of custody. Previously, CBSA had stepped in to keep migrants behind bars, even after the IRB had ordered their release.

“It seems to me, the terms and conditions allow you a significant degree of freedom, in that you are not in detention any longer,” IRB board member Geoff Rempel told one of the men after the CBSA and the migrant accepted a list of 12 conditions.

But at the same time, the CBSA will continue to have considerable access to the man and can continue with their investigations, Mr. Rempel said.

IRB spokesperson Paula Faber said the release of the migrant does not mean the government does not have any concerns. “It's just we are continuing with our investigations with this person out of custody,” she said. A hearing on his refugee claim could be 18 to 20 months away, she added.

The Tamil migrants have all made refugee claims. Their lawyers say they were fleeing Sri Lanka's brutal civil war that ended earlier this year. Canadian authorities are looking into allegations that some of the men have links to the Tamil Tigers who were defeated in the conflict.

The migrant, dressed in a red T-shirt, red pants and white sneakers, followed the submissions during the 30-minute IRB hearing with the help of a translator.

Showing no emotion, he signed the agreed-upon list of conditions, written in English, and was then taken out of the hearing room with his hands handcuffed behind his back. Under conditions of his release, he is required to have someone post a bond of $7,500. Once released, he must stay with that person.

He must also provide an affidavit setting out his relationship with the person, the names of everyone staying at the same address, and bank documents showing the source of the $7,500 bond. The IRB has five business days to verify the documents before releasing him, which could keep him in custody at least until Dec. 31 if not longer.

The migrant also agreed to co-operate fully with continuing security investigations and with CBSA efforts to verify where he came from. He cannot knowingly meet or talk with members of any criminal organization. He is also prohibited from accepting funds and associating or communicating with those who support foreign or domestic terrorism or who are members of a group designated as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government or the United Nations, such as the World Tamil Movement or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Most of the 15 migrants ordered released this week are going to live in Toronto, she added. Some are moving to Ottawa and Montreal. (Globe and Mail)


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