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This article was published 16/8/2010 (4123 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG--The ship carrying 490 Tamil migrants that arrived on Canada’s shores Friday is a "test boat" that’s part of an organized "criminal" enterprise, Canada’s Public Safety Minister said in Winnipeg this morning.
"Other boats may be waiting to see what the Government of Canada’s reaction is to it," Vic Toews said.
Toews said it’s expected other vessels will follow.
It clearly wasn’t a last-ditch, "last-minute" attempt to escape Sri Lanka organized by innocents, Toews said.
"It’s clear the migrants were brought over here on a ship specially outfitted to bring them here," he said. "The boat itself was well-equipped to maximize profits."
The government can’t just turn such ships away for humanitarian reasons, said Toews.
The government has to consider the past unscrupulousness of migrant smugglers, he said. There is a possibility that ships turned away could be scuttled and the migrants thrown overboard, he said.
Detention hearings begin today in Vancouver for the migrants on board the vessel.
Toews also said the ship had been retrofitted to carry human cargo.
"The sanitation on that ship was far in excess of what it usually be outfitted with," he told reporters. "It was clearly designed to maximize the number of passengers on board and therefore maximize the amount of profit that the organization running this ship would achieve."
He also said it’s believed the ship is linked to the Tamil Tigers, but he declined to provide further details. The Tamil Tigers has been outlawed in Canada as a terrorist group since 2006.
But he added most of the 492 passengers paid between $40,000 to $50,000 each for a spot on the vessel, in which the smugglers always planned to sail to Canada.
"It’s certainly indicative of the fact that this was a very profitable undertaking even if the boat is eventually seized," he said. "This could afford a criminal organization with a lot of money. Whether or not individuals on the ship are actually part of the criminal organization, certainly the amount of money paid goes to finance a criminal organization."