From the Toronto Sun we read:
The Thai government arrested 155 illegal Sri Lankan immigrants Sunday, part of a group that Canadian officials believe were attempting to sail to Canada and seek refugee status.
The Government of Thailand said its commando unit and immigration bureau raided several apartments in 17 locations and arrested 155 Sri Lankan immigrants, many who had no travel documents or had overstayed their visas.
The immigrants are suspected of being Elam rebels, or Tamil tigers,
the National News Bureau of Thailand’s public relations department said.
Thai police said they found a picture of the Tamil Tigers’ late leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, during the raid.
The raid may have been at the prompting of Ottawa. From the Toronto Star we read:
The Canadian Tamil Congress says it’s extremely concerned by reports 155 Sri Lankan migrants have been arrested in Thailand and that Ottawa may have played a role in the crackdown to prevent the migrants from setting sail for Canada.
Congress spokesman David Poopalapillai said his organization has spoken with a relative of one of the Tamils arrested this past weekend in a raid of 17 Bangkok locations.
A relative? Are we correct then to assume that Canada's Sri Lakan Tamils are helping to smuggle people into the country?
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the minister cannot confirm or deny operational matters.
The federal government will not sit back while Canada becomes a target for criminal operations that try to take advantage of the country’s generosity, the spokesman added.
Lisa Monette, a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, provided few details Tuesday on the government’s role in the Thailand arrests.
“We are aware of the operation conducted by Thai authorities,” she said.
“Canada is engaged with a number of countries in the region on issues regarding migrant smuggling, including pursuing co-operation with source and transit countries. We will not comment on operational issues that may compromise any ongoing or future efforts.”
I hope it is true that Ottawa did play a role in the arrests because it means the government is actually doing something about queue-jumping immigrants, so the Canadian Tamil Congress can whine all they want.
This is, of course, an inefficient way to deal with the problem. Instead of getting to the root of it the government has chosen instead to confront people smuggling in a cat-and-mouse game. Here is Martin Collacott writing in the Ottawa Citizen:
While many Tamil civilians were killed, wounded or displaced in the fighting between the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan government forces that ended last year, the case cannot be made that Tamils in general in Sri Lanka suffer from persecution. Among other things, they continued to occupy senior positions in government throughout the civil war and still do so. The situation in Sri Lanka, moreover, could not have been as dire for Tamils as asylum seekers allege since large numbers of them have gone back to visit their relatives after filing their claims in Canada. Yet a further factor worth considering is that in Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka and located firmly in the Sinhalese south of the country, 30 per cent of the population are Tamils who have been able to continue with their daily lives despite the conflict.
Refugee activists, nevertheless, argue that Tamils in Sri Lanka must be under threat simply because we have accepted close to 90 per cent of their refugee claims over the years. What such figures demonstrate, however, is not that Tamils are being persecuted in Sri Lanka but that something is seriously wrong with our refugee system. In 2003, for example, when Britain accepted only two per cent of claims from Sri Lankan Tamils and Germany only four per cent, Canada approved 76 per cent. In the same year, Canada accepted claims from far more Tamils than did all the other countries in the world combined.
Our attraction to asylum seekers in general is not only that we accept the claims of large numbers that no other country would consider to be genuine refugees but that we provide the most generous system of benefits available anywhere for those making a refugee claim. It is hardly any wonder, therefore, that tens of thousands of individuals make refugee claims in Canada every year and that Sri Lankan Tamils have been so adept at using the system that they have succeeded in establishing in Canada their largest overseas community in the world.
An Ottawa Citizen reader responds with the following:
It is easy to figure out why the Tamils bypass Tamil Nadu in India, their motherland, where 61 million Tamils live and many other countries in between Sri Lanka and Canada and land on our shores. It is our lucrative welfare system.
They know that Canada is the goose that keeps laying golden eggs -- a country that pays welfare cheques starting at $585 a month -- when converted to Sri Lankan rupees is 58,000, which is a fortune in Sri Lankan terms. To sweeten their attraction to Canada, they are offered welfare housing, medical services, and a free legal aid system to fight their cases in court, and their children will receive free post-secondary school education.
They are smart to know that couples with children under six years of age could also apply for the universal child care benefit each month for each child. They are also eligible for a federal child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement, which they could not get in Sri Lanka.
So who wouldn't want to come to Canada and be with Canada's nice people?
They know that a couple with one child can get $327.66 per month as child care benefits on top of $1,058 under the Ontario welfare system and that Scarborough and Markham, where they will eventually will end up, are indeed cities in Ontario.
These Tamils also know that, once they receive their Canadian passport, they can get on the first flight out of Canada with no questions asked by the Canadian authorities to return to Sri Lanka for holidays and visit relatives, the country that they ran away from, saying that they were persecuted.
With incentives like these is it any wonder why anyone from anywhere will try to game Canada's refugee system?
If we are serious about tackling the problem we need to look at the cause of it which means looking at ourselves and admitting we made mistakes.
Straightening out our highly dysfunctional refugee determination system is no easy matter. For one thing it is hamstrung by our adherence to an international convention that is badly out of date in relation to today's realities, such as the multi-billion dollar international people-smuggling industry.
The situation is further complicated by a Supreme Court decision that would not have occurred had a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedom been drafted with greater care.
The government did, in fact, introduce legislation in Parliament earlier this year designed to make modest improvements to the system -- but it was largely gutted by refugee advocacy groups and lawyers in concert with members of the opposition hoping to curry favour with immigrant communities whose members have been notably successful in exploiting the refugee system in its current state.
As far as I'm concerned they are enemies of the state since immigration is a sovereignty issue and if these groups have undermined Canada's ability to police her borders than they have in effect eroded our national sovereignty.
Ultimately we cannot depend on countries like Thailand to police our borders for us. Not only is it unfair but it is our responsibility.
Update: This is from the Toronto Star:
The aspiring refugees are being dishonest when they tell Canadian officials they fear for their personal safety in Sri Lanka, says Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris. And a recent internal study by the Canadian High Commission in Colombo seems to give the minister’s claim some credence.
“The people who are now asking for refugee status are doing so for economic reasons, not because they fear for their lives. Okay, that is part of human nature. Everybody wants to improve their lot in life.
“They want to see greener pastures. That is fine. But to ascribe that to atrocities that are alleged to be taking place in this country, or to hide behind a smokescreen of imagined delinquencies or wrongdoings is, to say the least, disingenuous and it also does harm to the country.”
The Canadian High Commission in Colombo recently conducted an internal study and examined a limited number of case files of Sri Lankan Tamils who have been granted asylum in Canada since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in May 2009. In more than half of the cases, the refugees had later returned to Sri Lanka after receiving Canadian citizenship and passports.
“It certainly raised some eyebrows,” Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said recently in an interview with the Star in New Delhi.
“It’s a limited sample size but we do have a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest there’s a lot of people who gain protected status and return to their original country. We believe there is widespread abuse of our asylum system.”
How nice of Jason Kenney to finally take notice. So how about doing something about it? The report goes on to state that the RCMP has established an office in Colombo as part of an effort to address the issue. Great! More band aid solutions to a chronic problem that will cost Canadian taxpayers more money but when you have decided not to invoke the notwithstanding clause in the Charter to repeal the Singh decision, as Jason Kenney has done, what course of action is left?