Canadian media reports state that Canadian authorities have intercepted the ship carrying 490 Tamils including suspected human smugglers and terrorists and are escorting it to CFB Esquimalt, just east of Victoria,.
The Canadian Globe and Mail website has reported that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews had announced that HMCS Winnipeg took action after the ship carrying Tamils altered course towards Port Alberni, B.C. The town lies at the end of a long inlet on the west side of Vancouver Island.
“This afternoon, a vessel carrying 490 individuals claiming refugee status – including suspected human smugglers and terrorists – has entered our waters and the Canadian Government is taking action,” Toews has been quoted as saying.
The HMCS Winnipeg had intercepted the motor vessel Sun Sea after it deviated course toward Port Alberni.
“The Winnipeg attempted to hail the Sun Sea several times, and after establishing communications the vessel declared that it had refugees on board.”
Transport Canada had confirmed yesterday (12) the ship will be taken to Esquimalt harbour at CFB Esquimalt and that air traffic will be restricted from above the vessel as it travels and while it is docked.
A crew member on a neighbouring fishing vessel had been listening in on radio transmissions and told The Canadian Press the people on the MV Sun Sea were peppered with questions from the coast guard.
“Just asking 10,000 questions, about how many sick, how many dead, how many women, how many children — many, many, many questions,” Rory Smith, the chief mate on a fishing vessel that was positioned several kilometres from the ship has said in an interview over satellite phone.
“It was 490 people on board, then it was 480, then it was 450. No dead, they had one that was probably sick,” he has said, recalling the answers to those questions.
The ship was expected to sail through the Juan de Fuca Strait before landing in the Victoria region, and preparations appeared underway at nearby Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt and at a nearby naval refuelling station, where massive tents had been erected.
Two Vancouver-area jails have been told to make room for a flood of new inmates this week and a news helicopter has broadcast footage of tents and portable toilets set up at CFB Esquimalt.
Media reports said that health officials in Victoria have been told to prepare for the possible delivery of humanitarian health care, although there is no word on the condition of the migrants.