An immigration adjudicator is now deciding if one of the men who arrived in B.C. aboard a decrepit cargo ship last summer should be deported for human smuggling because of work he did in the engine room of the ship during the voyage.

The man, who can't be identified, is the first Sri Lankan refugee claimant from the MV Sun Sea to face allegations of human smuggling. Canada Border Services Agency is seeking a detention order against the man - saying he was also one of the 12 crewmembers aboard the MV Sun Sea.

At an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing in Vancouver on Thursday, the man admitted he was one of the crewmembers but said he was working in exchange for passage to Canada, and was not involved in the planning of the migrant voyage.

Speaking through an interpreter the man told the hearing that work mostly consisted of standing around, watching an engineer. Sometimes he handed him tools, sometimes he moved oil from a large pot to another, he said.

The man is also a relative of one of the key organizers, according to the CBSA, but details of that relationship cannot be reported because of a publication ban. But he said he knew nothing about the vast smuggling network, which brought the Sun Sea to Canada.

A lawyer for the Canada Border Service Agency dismissed that argument, saying regardless of the size of his role, without the contribution of the crewmembers, there would have been no ship smuggling 492 migrants from Sri Lanka to Canada, and in the eyes of the law means the man was engaged in people smuggling.

The Ministry of Public Safety has accused 32 of the migrants who arrived on the ship of terrorism, war crimes or human smuggling.


With files from The Canadian Press and Jason Proctor