Tamils pay $20 m. for passage to Canada

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Vancouver: Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said on August 16 that the Thai ship that brought about 500 Tamils into Canada on August 13 was part of a organized criminal enterprise in which each person was charged $40,000 to $50,000 for the passage.

The amount charged by the ship works out to be about $20 million.

It was also revealed on August 16 that a 37-year-old passenger died due to some disease on the voyage and was buried at sea.

“This was a very profitable undertaking, even if the boat is eventually seized. Other boats may be waiting to see what the government of Canada’s reaction is to it,’’ the Minister said as anger mounted across the country for letting in the ship.

On radio talks shows, blogs and newspaper Web sites, Canadians have demanded that the asylum seekers be deported.

The MV Sun Sea, which was escorted to a Canadian forces naval base on Vancouver Island August 14 as it reached Canadian shores after a three-month voyage, is the second ship to reach Canada after the Ocean Lady brought 76 Tamil asylum seekers here in October.

The Minister, who had earlier expressed concern about “elements of the LTTE and the Tamil Tigers on board this vessel,” said on August 16 the ship was retrofitted for human cargo. The LTTE was banned by Canada in 2006.

He said since everyone on board the ship has sought asylum, “it is always difficult to determine who the crew is.’’

Processing of refugee claims by asylum seekers began on August 16. Once they are released, most of these asylum seekers are likely to reach Toronto where about 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live.

The Canadian government says it is looking at the possibility of reframing shipping laws to stop human smuggling at the source of origin.

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