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Last female migrant on MV Sun Sea released on bond

Tamils from Sri Lanka lean over the side of the boat after the Tamil vessel carrying 490 suspected asylum seekers docked at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt near Victoria August 13, 2010.

John Lehmann/Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/Globe and Mail

Just days after the MV Sun Sea arrived, the Tamil migrant was all smiles as she walked into a detention review, her new life in Canada seemingly set to begin.

Seven months later, at yet another in her long list of detention hearings, the woman wept openly at being the last female passenger still behind bars - until the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered her release on a bond.

At the Thursday hearing, the Canada Border Services Agency said the woman - who can't be identified due to a publication ban - should remain in custody because she was a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a banned terrorist organization.

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CBSA said the woman completed training with the Tamil Tigers and was even given a cyanide capsule, though the border agency did not provide further details on the poison pill. It said a separate hearing will determine whether the woman is admissible to Canada, but warned she could be a flight risk.

But Dean Pietrantonio, the woman's duty counsel, said there was no evidence to suggest his client would go underground if released from custody. He said she was eager to see the refugee process through and has family ties to Canada - her uncle lives in Ontario.

The refugee board agreed to release the woman into her uncle's care upon payment of a $1,000 cash bond and $5,000 performance bond. She must also report to CBSA weekly and not associate with members of the LTTE.

She was the last of the 63 women onboard the ship to remain in custody; 44 of the 380 men are still locked up.

All of the MV Sun Sea passengers filed refugee claims. Admissibility hearings, which determine not whether migrants should be released from detention but whether they are ultimately eligible to live in Canada, have been scheduled for about 40 of the claimants. Three admissibility hearings have been held so far, with two men being ordered deported.

The woman - dressed in her prison-issued grey sweater, sweatpants and black running shoes - did not testify at Thursday's hearing. She listened through a Tamil interpreter, though she did briefly speak in English with her lawyer. She clutched a tissue and dabbed at her eyes throughout the proceedings.

Becky Chan, CBSA's hearing representative, said the woman worked for the LTTE in a medical capacity. Ms. Chan said the woman could still be under the control of the human smugglers who organized the MV Sun Sea's voyage.

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But Mr. Pietrantonio said his client has consistently stated that her family already paid the smugglers by selling some of its property. He said the woman worked not for the Tamil Tigers, but in an area that was controlled by the LTTE.

Mr. Pietrantonio added such a lengthy time in custody has taken a toll. "She's indicated to me that she now feels very lonely and depressed," he said.

Anita Merai-Schwartz, the board's adjudicator, said she was satisfied the woman would abide by the refugee process and ordered the release.

Upon hearing the news, the woman broke into a smile.

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