More charges in Sun Sea smuggling case

Three more Sri Lankans charged under Immigration Act

Three men from the MV Sun Sea remain in immigration detention in Maple Ridge.

Three men from the MV Sun Sea remain in immigration detention in Maple Ridge.

The police investigation into a smuggling operation that brought more than 400 Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka to Canada has ended with charges being laid against six people.

At a press conference Wednesday, RCMP announced the final set of charges against three more men accused of planning the trip that ferried 492 Tamil migrants from Thailand to Victoria in 2010 aboard a rusty 59-metre-long cargo ship named the MV Sun Sea.

Thampeernayagam Rajaratnam, Nadarajah Mahendran and Sathyapavan Aseervatham each face one count of organizing entry into Canada contrary to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Rajaratnam was arrested Tuesday in Ontario. The whereabouts of the other men is unknown, though they are not believed to be in Canada.

A total of six men have been charged for their involvement in the human smuggling operation, three of whom are currently in Canadian police custody, while one is facing extradition from France.

“These latest charges clearly demonstrate the level of commitment the RCMP has to work with domestic and international partners in order to ensure human smuggling offences are painstakingly investigated so that those who seek to profit from this behaviour will be brought before the courts,” said Supt. Derek Simmonds, the officer in charge of RCMP’s Border Integrity Program.

The Sun Sea was the second ship in a year to bring Tamil migrants to Canada and prompted the federal government to introduce new legislation to crack down on human smuggling.

In a statement following the announcement of additional charges, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney reiterated the government’s position.

“Canada is a generous and compassionate country that welcomes newcomers, but Canadians are not naïve, he said.

“Canada will not tolerate abuse of our immigration system for financial gain through the despicable crime of migrant smuggling.”

All 492 Tamil migrants found on board the Sun Sea have made refugee claims.

The Tamils were fleeing violence in their home country of Sri Lanka, which was mired in a civil war for almost three decades.

Many of the women and men were held in two Maple Ridge provincial prisons while federal agencies processed them.

As of May 28, the Immigration and Refugee Board said three men remain in immigration detention in Maple Ridge.

Twenty have been issued deportation orders and seven have been accepted as refugees.