British Columbia

Tamil migrants to remain in custody

The first of 492 Tamil migrants to appear at a detention review hearing in B.C. will remain in custody for an additional seven days, the Immigration and Refugee board of Canada says.
A translator and lawyers representing the federal government and Tamil migrants sit before an immigration adjudicator in Vancouver. ((Jane Wolsak/CBC))
The first of 492 Tamil migrants to appear at a detention review hearing in B.C. will remain in custody for an additional seven days, the Immigration and Refugee board of Canada says.

The first hearings for 15 of the Sri Lankan migrants who arrived by ship on the B.C. coast last Friday took place in Vancouver Tuesday.

The hearing adjudicator agreed with a federal government request to hold the migrants so they can be fingerprinted and their identification verified. The migrants are being housed in Vancouver-area detention centres.

The 15 women who had their initial detention review Tuesday are scheduled to appear at a second hearing Aug. 24.

A spokeswoman for the board said it wants to hold initial hearings for as many as 60 men and 15 women each day.

IN DEPTH

The board did not provide information about the outcome of the initial hearings for the men Tuesday, which were being held at a detention centre in Surrey.

The hearings will determine which of the migrants will remain in detention and which will be allowed to live in the community while waiting for their refugee claims to be processed — which can take months or even years. 

Journalists allowed to attend

Journalists will be allowed to attend the detention review hearings for the migrants, but Canadian Tamil organizations will not.

The first set of hearings is aimed at trying to establish the migrants' identities. In announcing its decision, however, the Immigration and Refugee Board also put in place a publication ban to prevent media from publishing or broadcasting those identities.

Normally, the public is barred from hearings where a person is claiming refugee status, because of privacy concerns.

Leeann King, an adjudicator with the refugee board, said legitimate concerns remain about the safety of the claimants, who may still have family at risk in Sri Lanka.

The Canada Border Services Agency reports that of the 492 migrants who arrived aboard the MV Sun Sea, 63 are women and 49 are children.

With files from The Canadian Press

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