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Migrant held on suspicion of ties to Tamil Tigers

Members of the RCMP are seen wearing surgical masks as they board the MV Sun Sea after it was escorted into CFB Esquimalt in Colwood, B.C.,Friday, Aug. 13, 2010. The suspect Tamil migrant boat is believed to be holding as many as 500 refugees with unknown numbers of women and children.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Immigration officials have ordered a Tamil man detained on suspected links to the Tamil Tigers, the first official indication of a tie between the banned terrorist organization and the ship that brought 492 migrants to Canada last month.

At the same time, the Canada Border Services Agency said it has discovered scores of destroyed and unclaimed identity documents aboard the MV Sun Sea, heightening the agency's concerns that some of the migrants are attempting to conceal their identities.

As the third round of detention reviews started on Wednesday for the 492 migrants, the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered one man detained after the CBSA asked that he be held on security concerns.

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The CBSA said the man, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, was named in a newspaper report about a fundraising effort by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The article suggested that the man was part of a senior LTTE delegation sent to 12 countries to raise funds for tsunami relief from the Tamil diaspora.

"In his initial identity interview, [the man]denied being a member of the LTTE or travelling as a part of any delegation and initially denied travelling to any country outside of Sri Lanka," said the legal counsel representing CBSA, Jennifer Friburg.

The CBSA alleged that when the man was shown the article he admitted travellng to a European country, but only as a member of the media.

The person was not asked to speak during the hearings but was represented by legal counsel Antya Schrack. "The article mentions that he travelled with the Sri Lankans but no where does it say that he was a part of the Tamil Tiger organization," Ms. Schrack said.

The IRB adjudicator, Marc Tessler, ordered the continued detention of the migrant on grounds of membership in a terrorist organization, the LTTE, which is banned in Canada. "I am satisfied that the evidence the minister [CBSA]has provided is reasonably capable of supporting that suspicion," Mr. Tessler said.

The man is to have another detention review hearing within 30 days. He is the only one of the 492 to be detained on security grounds. All of the other adults continue to be detained until their identities can be confirmed, although the CBSA said it has completed identity assessments for 40 of them.

The CBSA said it found unclaimed and destroyed documents onboard the vessel. "Four IDs, one birth certificate, one death certificate, two national IDs and 300 pieces of birth certificates as well as various passport pages," said Parminder Singh, legal counsel for the CBSA. These documents cannot be matched to any of the migrants, he said. "This gives rise [to the possibility]that attempts have been made to conceal identity," he added.

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There are four reasons under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to detain a migrant: identity is not established, they represent a flight or a security risk, or they are a danger to the public.

The security consideration, Section 58(1)(C) of the act, was introduced after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States as part of Canada's effort to combat terrorism. The section says that a refugee applicant can be held on grounds of security or for violating human or international rights. It is, according to lawyers, one of the least used reasons for detention.

During last year's hearings for 76 men who came to Canada aboard the Tamil migrant vessel Ocean Lady, all were initially detained on grounds that their identity could not be established. On Nov. 4, however, CBSA argued that some of the men be detained on security grounds because of connections to the Tamil Tigers. All of the men have since been released after nearly three months of detention and are waiting for their refugee hearings to start.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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