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Tamil Tigers plan to use Canada as base, official claims – vancouversun

[MISC, Tuesday, 18 January 2011 10:18 No Comment]

Security intelligence authorities are warning that exiled Tamil rebel leaders are reestablishing their violent Sri Lankan separatist movement in Canada.

"We don’t know how far advanced it is, but their intent is pretty clear — to set up a base-in-exile here for the leadership. Some leadership is already here," a well-placed federal government official told the Ottawa Citizen.

The warning accompanied a report late last week to senior government officials revealing that two southeast Asian smuggling syndicates are arranging the launch of two more ship-loads of Tamil migrants to British Columbia in the coming weeks. The boats are expected to carry as many as 50 former Tamil Tiger rebel leaders and fighters, according to intelligence estimates.

"Why here? It doesn’t make any sense because it is much easier to go to Australia," said the official.

Two previous cargo ships, Sun Sea and Ocean Lady, arrived off the west coast last year and in 2009 carrying a total of 568 migrants, including several men the government suspects are former rebels.

"How many have made it through, how advanced they are is not clear, [but] we’re concerned," said the official. "Canadians expect us to avoid becoming a haven for terrorists."

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, were defeated in 2009 after waging a three-decade civil war. The group has been outlawed in Canada since 2006.

Human rights groups and Canadian Tamils urge compassion for the migrants and have called for a broader public understanding of the complex political situation in Sri Lanka. As members of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, many of the men are fleeing persecution and face torture or death if returned to their homeland, they say.

Two Federal Court decisions released last week disclosed that federal investigators have identified at least two Sun Sea passengers as LTTE members. Both were ordered to remain in custody, although the Immigration and Refugee Board had earlier approved their release.

In all, about 225 out of the 380 men and about 57 out of the 63 women from Sun Sea have been ordered released. Many of those releases have been stayed because the government appealed them in Federal Court. The remaining 49 are children, who were not detained, but remained with their detained parents.

David Poopalapillai, national spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress, said federal officials have yet to make public any evidence that "hard-core" LTTE militants are among the migrants or establishing themselves in Canada.

Poopalapillai said the organization has no knowledge of more illegal migrant ships, and if the government wants to stop the arrivals, it should process potential Tamil refugees in Southeast Asia and expedite the two to four years Canadian families now typically wait to sponsor immigrating relatives.

Soon after the war ended, the pro-rebel Tamilnet web-site published an LTTE statement that it was establishing a "transnational" government among the group’s overseas diaspora to carry on their political struggle.

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