How much foolhardy courage or desperation must it take to pay someone $45,000 to board a rusty old ship, survive a lengthy trip across the Pacific, and turn up unannounced and unwanted on the shores of a strange land, only to face detention and possible deportation?
If you do succeed in getting to Canada and making a successful refugee claim, what’s the payoff? A lifetime of menial jobs where most of your income goes to pay off your $45,000 “travel” debt while the rest goes to support your family at home.
So I have a great deal of sympathy for the 76 men, allegedly Tamils from Sri Lanka, currently held in Vancouver after their harrowing asylum-seeking adventure as Canadian authorities try to figure out what to do with them.
That’s the kind of fortitude and durability we’re looking for here in Canada.
Except … what about the hundreds of thousands of legitimate and legal refugee claimants who are stuck in detention camps around the world with little hope of ever starting a new life in Canada?
What about the migrant workers who are allowed to work here, but not live here?
What about the people who just want to immigrate to Canada, have patiently jumped through all the hoops, and get to watch as these 76 adventurers jump the queue?
It’s a tough problem. Should we take a hard line and send these guys back to Sri Lanka without considering their claims for asylum?
That’s how federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney seems to be leaning when he says we don’t want to develop a reputation of having a two-tier immigration system and how we need to do a better job of shutting the back door. And these migrants certainly arrived by the back door.
Or, now that they’re here, should we dutifully process their claims, and if they convince us that they are legitimate refugees from oppression or violence in Sri Lanka, should we welcome them in, not to mention their families waiting in the wings to see if the big gamble pays off?
Here’s the thing: We owe it to all those legitimate noses pressed to the glass, Promised Land on the other side, to make absolutely sure these men don’t face real danger back home. If not, home they go.
Otherwise, how can we continue to ask everyone else to wait patiently for their turn?