Tamil migrant ship smuggling probe leads to more charges
Two more people have been charged with organizing illegal entry into Canada in connection with a ship that brought hundreds of Tamil migrants to B.C.'s West Coast.
According to documents sworn in B.C. provincial court in Vancouver, Kunarobinson Christhurajah and Lesly Jana Emmanuel were charged Monday in connection with the MV Sun Sea, the boat that arrived off the B.C. coast in August 2010, carrying 492 people.
Christhurajah and Emmanuel are both named in an amended indictment, bringing to three the total of people now charged in the case.
Christhurajah and Emmanuel were both arrested in B.C. and are slated to make an appearance in Vancouver Provincial Court Wednesday morning.
"The investigation remains ongoing and we're continuing to gather evidence," said RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound.
"We're not obviously ruling out the possibility of additional charges in the future, and so it wouldn't be appropriate to speak right now as to the specific evidence against these two individuals."
Last month, RCMP announced the arrest of the man accused of masterminding the alleged human smuggling operation.
Thayakaran Markandu was arrested in France after an international manhunt. Police said they intend to extradite him to face trial in Canada.
An indictment filed in provincial court accuses Christhurajah, Emmanuel and Markandu of crimes in the Juan de Fuca Strait off the B.C. coast, as well as in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand.
The indictment, which contains unproven allegations, claims they "did knowingly organize, induce, aid or abet the coming into Canada of one or more persons who are not in the possession of a visa, passport or other document required by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act."
The Sun Sea arrived with 492 Tamil men, women and children aboard. All made refugee claims, pointing to decades of violence wrought by a 26-year civil war in their home country of Sri Lanka.
Several passengers deported
The ship arrived a year after another vessel, the MV Ocean Lady, brought 76 Tamil migrants to B.C.'s shores.
The two ships amplified the debate about what to do when migrants arrive in large numbers after paying human smugglers, with the federal Conservative government using the two cases to argue for tougher human smuggling and refugee laws.
The federal government was quick to suggest some of the passengers had connections to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a banned terrorist organization and separatist group that lost the civil war in 2009.
Passengers on both ships were accused of ties to the Tigers during hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board. While none of those allegations was substantiated for passengers on the Ocean Lady, several Sun Sea passengers were ordered deported for connections to the Tigers.
The federal Conservatives pointed to the arrivals to argue for tougher sentences for human smugglers, proposing legislation that would target operations that bring large numbers to Canada at once.