April 5, 2011
Debts Owed to Migrant Smugglers
Lawyers representing some of the 492 Sri Lankan Tamils who arrived on the MV Sun Sea argue that the federal immigration system is forcing many of the MV Sun Sea migrants to sell their land and belongings to pay off their debt to smugglers in order to be released from detention. In response, the CBSA argues that some migrants should be kept in custody because it is likely that they will not appear for subsequent hearings.
One lawyer stated that the migrants are not under the smugglers’ control and have no intention of paying them. It is the immigration system that’s forcing these people to pay off the debts in order to be released from detention. Another lawyer involved with the case concluded: “The point is that the minister and the board are requiring that we essentially pay the smuggler. It’s an incentive to get out.”
In response to these allegations, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said that “..any suggestion migrants are being kept behind bars until their smuggling debts are paid is “ridiculous”. He further stressed that these migrants are paying off the debts after they’re released from detention. Paying any smuggler is illegal and Canada will not tolerate such an offense.