'War criminals' in Tamil asylum seekers' guise worry Canada

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Ottawa, Oct. 23 (ANI): Following the seizure of a ship carrying 76 Tamil asylum seekers off Canada's Pacific coast, Ottawa is worried that more vessels - even with some LTTE gunrunner and human trafficker aboard - could be headed for Canada after fleeing from Sri Lanka.

Last Friday, "a vessel of unknown origin" entered Canadian waters. All the 76 Sri Lankan Tamils who were aboard are seeking asylum from Canada's tribunals and courts.

And with a with a success rate of more than nine in 10, most of them are likely to join scores of Tamil refugees who find asylum in Canada every month, the Globe and Mail reports.

But at least one passenger, Kartheepan Manickavasagar, 26, is wanted in Sri Lanka for terrorism.

His lawyer, Hadayt Nazami, however, said: "A lot of innocent Tamils are being persecuted by the government and accused of all kinds of things."

Colombo recently issued a warning saying "several" countries are on the hunt for "high-profile LTTE front agents" who run guns and human-smuggling operations.

Rohan Kumar Gunaratna, a counterterrorism expert, said the ship caught by the Mounties had had a reputation for running guns to Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

"LTTE shipping is intact. It's possible there is at least one more ship. There could be another vessel," he said.

Canada is now faced with a daunting task of figuring out who is a legitimate refugee, and who is a war criminal. But thanks the time-consuming morass for Canadian tribunals, even if the militants are recognized, deporting them may not be very easy, the report points out.

"Just being a member of the Tamil Tigers is not in itself a war crime," Jim Ross of Human Rights Watch in New York pointed out. He said that, by and large, "the Tamil population has genuine grievances against the Sri Lankan government." (ANI)

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