Here is Martin Collacott writing in the National Post about Sri Lankan Tamil refugees particularly the 76 that landed in B.C. aboard a boat called the Ocean Lady. He is one to pay attention to regarding this issue because he was once Canada's high commissioner to Sri Lanka during the initial break out of Sri Lanka's civil war.
The arrival of 76 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard a vessel that some experts believe may be owned by the Tamil Tigers has raised a number of troubling questions. Unlike the 599 Chinese who appeared off the coast of British Columbia 10 years ago, there is every indication the latest arrivals intend to try to stay in Canada permanently.
The Chinese boat people had quite different objectives. They were being smuggled into Canada in order to be smuggled in turn into the United States -- where they planned to work in menial jobs in order to pay off those who had brought them here illegally. It was not in their game plan to get caught by the Canadian authorities. They knew nothing about claiming refugee status when they arrived here and had to be coached by their Canadian lawyers on how to put together tales about how they had been persecuted in China in order to stand a chance of being accepted as refugees.
The 76 new arrivals will need no such instruction. They have almost certainly brought with them carefully prepared stories of how they have suffered, because they are Tamils, at the hands of the mainly Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka. While such claimants have been quite successful at gaining asylum in Canada until now, this group may find the task somewhat more daunting.
He points out that Sri Lankan Tamil refugee claims should be more difficult to make now because the fighting has stopped in Sri Lanka. Poverty and crime are not grounds for making refugee claims. Undoubtedly we are going to hear more tired tales of persecution irrespective of the reality that today Sri Lanka's Tamils are one of the more privileged minority groups in a country in the world. They were nowhere close to suffering the kind of persecution and genocide black Christians and Muslims were, and are, experiencing in Darfur at the hands of an armed Arab militia backed by the Sudanese government. To make any parallels between the two is an insult to those real refugees in Darfur.
The suggestion that Tamils are being persecuted as a people in Sri Lanka, however, is nonsense and is a myth propagated by Tamil extremists. The Tigers have, in fact, tried to systematically assassinate moderate leaders in their own community who do not agree with the goal of creating a completely independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka by violent means. The latest victim of their ruthless campaign was the foreign minister of Sri Lanka, Lakshman Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil, who was murdered in 2005.
So, a foreign minister of Sri Lanka was an ethnic Tamil (and assassinated by the LTTE no less). Indeed, I believe there are at most four active Tamil political parties operating in Sri Lankan politics under the banner of the Tamil National Alliance. With sitting MPs in Colombo it is like Canada's Bloc Quebecois Party. Persecution? Save it for an ignorant Immigration and Refugee Board member and there are plenty of those going around.
There can be no doubt that Canada has been more than generous to Sri Lankan Tamils seeking asylum. Between 1989 and 2004, for example, we gave refugee status to more than 37,000 such claimants -- far more than to the nationals of any other country. Our largesse is also impressive by international standards; in 2003 we accepted 50% more claims from this source than did all the other countries of the world combined.
Did they deserve it? No.
Here's one indication of Canadian generosity, and even laxity, in our treatment of refugee claimants. In order to be successful, the claimants have to be able to make the case that they fled their countries of origin because it was not safe to remain there. Yet, in one year alone, 8,600 Sri Lankans with refugee claims pending in Canada applied to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa for travel documents so they could go back to Sri Lanka for visits.
This is also mentioned in the recommended book Who Gets In? by Daniel Stoffman. If they are fleeing for their lives then why are they returning to the land of their alleged persecution with such frequency?
A further indication that Sri Lanka is not quite as dangerous a place for Tamil refugee claimants as their supporters try to make out is to be found in an internal Citizenship and Immigration Canada communication (obtained through an access to information request by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland) which noted that "returnees (to Sri Lanka) are dealt with professionally and, unless there are outstanding criminal warrants, deportees and other returnees are simply returned to the community on arrival after brief and professionally conducted interviews."
The report went on to state that "other countries have successfully returned large numbers of failed asylum seekers, and Sri Lanka is a safe destination for unsuccessful refugee applicants." In the same vein, at an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) hearing in 2006, it was pointed out that more than 100 Sri Lankans (failed refugee claimants, and presumably all Tamil) had been sent back to their homeland and none had been mistreated as their lawyers had claimed they would be.
It's a farce and the joke is on Canada. Martin Collacott points out Canada's ridiculous refugee acceptance rate for Sri Lanka's Tamil refugee claims that characteristically hovers between 80% and 90%. Last year "Canada rejected 2.6% of their applications while other countries had an average rejection rate of 50%." Why has Canada shown Sri Lanka's Tamils such preferential treatment in the asylum system when no other country did or does? Are we missing something or just plain stupid? No. Everyone else is wrong. That's it. That's always it.
With the largest Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in the world Canada should be weary about more refugees from Sri Lanka. The war is over and there is no excuse they should be making refugee claims abroad. If anything they are internally displaced. Their tales of systemic persecution are often over exaggerated if not outright fabrications to gain international sympathy for political advantage in Sri Lanka and to keep immigration avenues open via the asylum system. They have much to gain by lying.
Most importantly sovereignty movements don't die out. They go into exile and Canada is the most likely place where LTTE members and fighters will regroup to re-stage a war for independence in Sri Lanka while escaping prosecution. Babbar Khalsa is kept alive within diaspora Sikh communities particularly in the U.K. and Canada, the two countries with the largest Sikh populations outside of India. The result: the largest mass murder in Canadian history.
If Sri Lanka's Tamil population want to come to Canada they can apply to immigrate. But to use the refugee system to immigrate is downright shameful. And it is embarrassing for us as a nation. Our refugee system is a joke making Canada the choice target for bogus refugee claims around the world. Let's bring some credibility and integrity to the system.