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First wave of Tamil refugees ordered held in detention at hearings

Aug 20, 2010 12:27:56 AM- transcurrents.com

by Clare Ogilvie

The first wave of Tamil refugees to have completed their first immigration hearings will remain in detention for now, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada ruled Tuesday.


Katpana Nagendra (right) talks to the media outside the refugee hearings in Vancouver on Tuesday. Darshika Selvasivan is on the left.
Photograph courtesy of: Wayne Leidenfrost, PNG

The first wave of Tamil refugees to have completed their first immigration hearings will remain in detention for now, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada ruled Tuesday.

In all, 75 of the 492 refugee claimants who arrived on the MV Sun Sea on Aug 13 had hearings Tuesday.

The first to appear was a young woman who braved the three-month voyage to reach family in Toronto. She travelled to Canada with her mother, father and brother.

“I ... order that [she] continue to be held on the grounds that her identity has not been established,” IRB member Leeann King said Tuesday.

King heard that the claimant has turned over her original birth certificate and national identity papers to Canadian officials. She has also had one short interview.

But due to the large number of claimants, it will likely take some time for the government to analyze the documents, the IRB heard.

Extra immigration staff have been called in to help deal with the claimants and the immigration process, the IRB was told.

Detainees are being photographed and fingerprinted. Their personal belongings are being held by officials and are being catalogued and analyzed as well.

All the claimants Tuesday at the IRB office in Vancouver were woman, some the mothers of children they brought with them. All wore over-sized hunter-green sweatshirts and grey track pants, their long dark hair held up with a large, tan-coloured rubber bands.

The diminutive women were led into the hearing room in handcuffs.

The names of the claimants cannot be published due to a ruling handed down by King Tuesday morning. It bans the media from printing any information about the claimants that might identify them.

However, the media will be allowed to report on the proceedings.

Normally, hearings are private and closed to the media and public.

Tamil community groups, which had applied to the IRB to be allowed to attend the hearings, will not be allowed to sit in under the same ruling.

That was not welcome news to community representatives.

“We as a community fully respect [the decision],” said Katpana Nagendra of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.

“But our information to date [is that] none of the migrants that are held in the detentions centres have been given phone access to communicate with outside members.

“That is our concern ... and we will be looking into that further to see what we can do to increase that.

“A lot of people have come and said, ‘My family disappeared at the end of May and maybe they are on that boat, can you help me locate them’.”

The hearings for the men were to be held at the Fraser Regional Corrections Centre, where they are being detained.

All are entitled to hearings within seven days of arriving in Canada.

The next set of hearings for these 75 claimants will be held Aug 24.

The Canadian government has said that it suspects members of the Tamil Tigers — a rebel separatist group branded a terrorist organization by Ottawa — were on the ship.

In two letters, the migrants claim to be escaping persecution in the wake of government–led military operations in northern Sri Lanka, which ended in May 2009.

The United Nations has estimated that the fighting killed at least 80,000 civilians during the 25-year conflict and displaced 280,000.

It has been reported that the claimants may have paid as much as $50,000 each to come to Canada.

The hearings continue.

Courtesy: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/First+wave+Tamil+refugees+ordered+held+detention+hearings/3408977/story.html#ixzz0x7JB0oId