MV Sun Sea claimant fights to stay in Canada

Santheesan Alakenthiran, 35, who lives in Toronto, was among 492 Sri Lankan men, women and children who arrived off the coast of B.C. aboard the MV Sun Sea in Aug. 2010.


TORONTO - Federal officials are trying to deport a Sri Lankan man who arrived in Canada with hundreds of other refugee claimants on the MV Sun Sea alleging he's a threat to national security.

Santheesan Alakenthiran, 35, who lives in Toronto, was among 492 Sri Lankan men, women and children who arrived off the coast of B.C. on a rickety vessel in Aug. 2010. Most have resettled in Toronto and B.C. as their refugee claims are being heard.

More than 15 people from that vessel are alleged to be members of the Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), who are deemed a terror group and banned in Canada.

Officials of the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness want Alakenthiran to be deemed inadmissable and deported from Canada due to ties to the Tamil Tigers.

An Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) was told Alakenthiran was a former bus and motorcycle mechanic at the Tamil Eelam Transportation Board and took part in Great Heroes' Day to honour suicide bombers. He even dug bunkers for the group.

The IRB was told Alakenthiran had filed a previous refugee claim in Thailand with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stating that he worked for the LTTE.

The IRB dismissed the allegations last January and ruled Alakenthiran was not a Tamil Tiger.

"He (Alakenthiran) did not consider himself a member and the LTTE did not recognize him as having membership privileges," IRB member Douglas Cochran said. He was "coping with life in an LTTE controlled area than with membership in that organization."

Cochran said he (Alakenthiran) did not "solicit others to join the armed struggle and attendance at Great Heroes' Day appear to be part of community life in LTTE-controlled areas."

"He (Alakenthiran) had no military training or weapons training," he said in his ruling. "There is no evidence that he was involved in the political wing of the LTTE."

Federal officials are expected to appeal the IRB's decision.

Less than 10 migrants who arrived on the Sun Sea have since obained refugee status. Some 20 claims have been withdrawn or abandoned, officials said.

And 12 have been accepted as refugees of the 76 Sri Lankan migrants who arrived on the MV Ocean Lady that arrived off Vancouver Island in Oct. 2009.

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