SANSAD News Release: August 17, 2010


Four hundred and ninety-two Tamil men, women, and children, including some pregnant women have arrived in Vancouver, BC, after several months on the sea aboard the modified cargo ship, Sun Sea. They are victims of violence and deserve to be granted refugee status.


Four hundred and ninetytwo Tamil men, women, and children, including some pregnant women have arrived in Vancouver, BC, after several months on the sea aboard the modified cargo ship, Sun Sea. They are being held in custody while the Immigration and Refugee Board hears their claims for refugee status.


Processing of claims for refugee status should be a routine matter, performed according to international law governing refugees and currently established law and practice in Canada. But the arrival of Tamil refugees on the Sun Sea has been surrounded by fear-mongering and racism by the Government of Canada through its spokesman, Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews. The Government of Canada has chosen to frame the arrival of these unfortunate people to our shores in desperate quest of safety as “terrorist” and “criminal”, the two words most likely to resonate with a public fed daily on fear from these sources. The refugees being Tamil are assumed to be terrorists, and the people who enabled them to come are assumed criminals, “people smugglers,” who have profited enormously from this trade. Adding more fuel to the fear and hate he has generated, Minister Toews has cast this as a “test case,” since he sees hordes of refugees waiting to invade our shores depending on the outcome of these hearings. The responsibility of the Immigration and Refugee Board to act in a manner that is according to the law, fair, and humane is made heavier by the smog of fear and racism produced by the Government of Canada.


The blindness of the Government of Canada to the conditions in Sri Lanka that have driven the Tamil refugees to embark on the Sun Sea merely adds to its deplorable record in recognizing the suffering of people under oppressive regimes except when it suits its interest to do so.


For twenty five years Sri Lanka had been in the grip of a civil war that produced one of the largest populations of internally displaced people in the world and sent many thousands abroad in search of refuge. These conditions did not disappear magically with the military victory of the Sri Lankan Government over the LTTE in May, 2009, when, denying the appeals of the UN and the international community for restraint the Government bombed civilian populations and launched rocket attacks on hospitals and denied access to relief agencies and journalists. Sri Lankan journalists daring to report on the situation were driven into exile or murdered. More than 7.000 innocent civilians died; at least 13000 were seriously injured; around 12,000 people “disappeared”; and 300,000 people became internally displaced. Many of the displaced are still in camps, unable to return to their destroyed homes; many of the combatants are still incarcerated and subjected to torture.


South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) condemns the Government of Canada’s hypocritical use of the discourse of human rights and its current racist fear-mongering against Tamil refugees. We demand fair and humane treatment for the refugees who have come on the Sun Sea and all people who seek Canada as a refuge to rebuild their lives following the cynical and brutal abuse of human rights by their governments and/or the devastations of war.


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