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Dilemma developing on high seas

Don’t look now, but there’s another boatload of desperate refugees headed to the West Coast.

Don’t look now, but there’s another boatload of desperate refugees headed to the West Coast.

Or is that illegal immigrants? Or maybe terrorists? Details are sketchy, but it looks as if another ship is following the lead of the Ocean Lady, which turned up last May carrying a cargo of 76 Tamil men who said they were fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka. All 76 are now in Canada, presumably where they will stay once the refugee review process is done — at some vague, unspecified point in the future.

Now, a Sri Lankan newspaper reports that another ship, the MV Sun Sea, is heading for Vancouver, this time with 200 Tamils on board.

It worked last time, so let’s try it again?

Meanwhile, we don’t know what to think. There were murky allegations that these ships harbour Tamil Tigers, militant separatists banned in Canada as a terrorist organization.

The Tamil rebellion was decisively crushed by Sri Lanka last year. The problem is, the Sri Lankan government is hardly a benign force, as Amnesty International reports 80,000 Tamils are still being held in concentration camps, and a U.S. State Department report charges Sri Lanka is responsible for the illegal execution and disappearances of young Tamil men.

Many believe the violence was a bloody culmination of a remorseless race war waged by Sri Lanka: An attempt to subjugate the Tamil people, which spawned the rebellion in the first place.

So, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, but whatever happens, it’s likely the entire process will be shrouded in mystery and, so far, the media (that’s us!) have failed to get beyond bewilderment and confusion.

Any attempt to sort right from wrong seems doomed to failure. There is no doubt these guys are queue jumpers, simply shoving their way to the front of the line, ignoring the hundreds of thousands around the world who would like to get into Canada and are following the rules, waiting patiently in line.

But if we send them home, will they be subject to illegal executions and disappearances? Our history, as we all know, is marred by several such incidents.

But how hard is it, really, for the government to bring some transparency to this process? And how likely is it that will happen?

If the Ocean Lady is any precedent, I have little hope the light will shine on the Sun Sea, and we’ll soon have 200 permanent new residents.

Illegal or otherwise.

 
 
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