Nfld. & Labrador

What happened to 3 stowaways in Argentia? Border Services won't say

Three foreign nationals were taken off a U.S.-bound ship in a Newfoundland port, and no one will say who they were, why they were there, or where they are now.

CBSA leans on Privacy Act, will not disclose information about three foreign nationals found on ship

The BBC Cape sailed out of Bilbao, Spain. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

Three foreign nationals were taken off a U.S.-bound ship in a Newfoundland port one week ago, and no one will say who they are, why they were there, or where they are now.

The Albanian Embassy in Canada, however, tells CBC News it is aware of the incident. 

The Canada Border Services Agency will not disclose the nationalities of the three individuals who were discovered aboard the BBC Cape in the Port of Argentia. And while the CBSA said they were taken to St. John's for processing, it is unknown where they are now. 

The federal agency is citing a section of the Privacy Act that states "personal information under the control of a government institution shall not, without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, be disclosed by the institution except in accordance with this section."

"If the information could lead to the identification of an individual, then the CBSA has to treat the information as personal information, with all of the protections of the Privacy Act in effect," a CBSA spokesperson said.

Pressed on how revealing one's nationality would identity someone, the CBSA continued to refer CBC to the Privacy Act. 

Albanian nationals?

Border agents boarded the BBC Cape, a general cargo ship, on Oct. 27 in Argentia, on the southwest coast of the Avalon Peninsula. The name of the ship, or the company operating it, was not released by the agency.

However, an online marine tracker indicates the ship's home port is Saint John's, Antigua and Barbuda, and it had travelled from Bilbao, Spain, to Argentia.

In recent years there have been several cases of stowaways boarding in Bilbao.

The Canada Border Services Agency confirms three people were found aboard a vessel in the Port of Argentia. (CBC)

In 2017, the Times of London reported that Albanian gangs may be smuggling people through the industrial port city, and security around the port was tightened the next year. In September of this year, a container ship that docked in the United Kingdom had 21 Albanian stowaways believed to have boarded in Bilbao.

CBC News contacted the Albanian embassy in Ottawa to determine if the stowaways were Albanian. 

In an email, the embassy said only that it is in contact with national authorities in relation to the matter and that no information can be disclosed.

"In such situations the embassy helps by keeping communication with the relevant authorities and based on the nature of the detention offers consular services to the individuals in accordance with international law," the email read. 

Under the Geneva Conventions, foreign nationals have the right to contact a representative of their country's embassy or consulate, the CBSA said. 

Given a lawyer

The three people were taken to the CBSA port of entry in St. John's to be processed, as is the case with any person who is intercepted while crossing the border.

"Officers conduct an immigration examination, including considering whether detention is warranted," the CBSA statement said.

"At this point, individuals undergo health checks to address any immediate health needs, as well as security screenings to ensure that they do not pose a security threat to Canada, including biographic and biometric checks (for example, fingerprinting)."

The CBSA will not disclose where the individuals are now or if they are in CBSA custody. 

The agency said it does provide access to legal counsel for foreign nations who are detained or arrested, and that includes the option to contact a lawyer of their choice.

As for the ship itself, the BBC Cape left the province shortly after docking in Argentia and made its way to the United States.

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