Migrant suspected of LTTE links

A woman who sailed to Canada on the MV Sun Sea worked for the Tamil Tigers and had a necklace that is given only to members of the terrorist group on their wedding day, a Canadian government representative alleges.

The woman, who can't be identified because of a publication ban, had a detention review on Monday before the Immigration and Refugee Board. She and her children have been in custody since the MV Sun Sea arrived in August carrying 492 Tamils.

Jennifer Friberg, a hearing officer for the Canada Border Services Agency, told the refugee board the woman is a security risk and must be detained. Most of the other migrants who have been kept in custody were held on the grounds that their identity had yet to be established.

Ms. Friberg said the woman admitted to working at a Sri Lankan library that CBSA believes to have been funded by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an organization banned in Canada. A distinct piece of jewellery the woman was carrying also raised suspicions.

“She’s in possession of a Tamil thali that is believed to be given only to LTTE members on their wedding day,” Ms. Friberg said, noting that a thali is a necklace with a pendant.

“Information appears to suggest that the specific thali that she has is only given to the LTTE members, and is not a generic thali that solemnizes all marriages.”

The woman is wed to a man border officials have also accused of being a Tamil Tigers. His name and identifying details may not be published. The woman, who is being detained at a Burnaby facility, did not appear at the review in person. She listened in via teleconference and spoke only when addressed by an interpreter.

Ms. Friberg said when border officials questioned the woman, she gave vague answers about her husband’s link to the terrorist group. The Tamil Tigers were defeated last year after a decades-long Sri Lankan civil war.

Ms. Friberg said the woman also claimed to not know anyone on the ship except for her family, even though other passengers told officials they recognized her.

“She’s trying to distance herself from anyone that she feels has LTTE connections,” she said. CBSA argued the woman should be held while it verifies the authenticity of the thali, and explores the library link.

Douglas Cannon, the woman’s lawyer, disagreed and said the government had provided no evidence his client was a security risk and unlikely to appear for future hearings if she was released.

“Where’s the evidence that [the library] was funded by the LTTE?” he asked. “Where’s the evidence that this Tamil thali is used by members of the LTTE?”
Anita Merai-Schwartz, the refugee board’s adjudicator, ruled the government had adequate grounds for suspicion. She ordered the woman to remain in custody until the authenticity of the thali and the ownership of the library are verified.

“I’m satisfied the minister is taking the necessary steps to come to the final conclusion with respect to the security issue,” she said.

The MV Sun Sea docked at CFB Esquimalt on Vancouver Island on Aug. 13. It carried 380 men, 63 women and 49 minors. An Immigration and Refugee Board spokeswoman said about 220 of the men had been ordered released. A CBSA spokeswoman could not say how many of the men had actually left custody.

About 10 women remain in custody, five of whom are with their children. One of those women, a mother of three, also had a detention review on Monday. She had no identifying documents when she arrived in Canada and was ordered to stay in custody at least until the new year.

The woman, who participated in the hearing via teleconference, wept as she was told she would have to remain in custody. Mr. Cannon, who also served as her counsel, said the woman has appeared more and more despondent and doesn’t believe she’ll ever be set free, even though some of her documents have been verified.

Cases involving women and children were supposed to be given priority, and Mr. Cannon said some of them have been let down. He accused the Ministry of Public Safety of dragging its feet to make an example of refugees who arrive in large groups. “They’re political prisoners,” he said.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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