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Info on Tamil refugees stolen in Canada break-in

[AFP, Tuesday, 14 September 2010 07:47 No Comment]

Information about the 492 Tamils refugees who arrived in Canada last month aboard a cargo ship has been stolen from a Tamil organization in Toronto, the group said Monday.

The Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), which serves as the voice of Tamil Canadians, said that someone broke into its headquarters late Saturday or early Sunday.

Only the computer "containing important information on families linked to the 492 migrants on the Sun Sea was stolen," the Congress said, adding in a statement that it hoped the details had "not fallen into the wrong hands."

The stolen data contained the names of possible passengers and the contact details of Tamil families in Sri Lanka, Canada and other countries who were looking for their next of kin and thought they might have been aboard.

CTC spokesman David Poopalapillai told AFP he suspected the Sri Lankan secret services might have been behind the break-in. "They may have had a hand in this. It is up to the police to find out," he said.

The Sun Sea reportedly spent 90 days traveling from Thailand before police boarded it in Canadian waters and piloted it ashore in western Canada on August 13.

Sri Lanka’s government has described the ship as a people-smuggling operation by Tamil Tiger rebels, who were crushed in a bloody finale in May 2009 in which the United Nations says at least 7,000 civilians were killed.

The identities of the passengers, who have been detained until their refugee status is determined by the Canadian courts, have not been made public.

CTC’s spokesman in Quebec, Raj Thayaparan, told AFP the burglar or burglars ignored other valuable computer equipment, suggesting the Tamil data was the specific target of the theft.

The CTC statement said the organization was trying hard "to contact the families to advise them to be careful while the police continue with their enquiries."

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