Canadian minister warns Sri Lankans not to pay 'human smugglers'

Jason Kenney, the Canadian immigration minister, has warned Sri Lankans considering paying a 'human smuggler' to get into Canada, that they will be wasting their money if they do.

Mr Kenney was speaking at a press conference in Colombo, on January 7th 2013 during an official visit to Sri Lanka. 'Canada has a generous and open legal immigration system' he said, 'but those who try to get into Canada through the back door using human smugglers will not succeed and are wasting their money trying.'

Many Sri Lankans try to leave Sri Lanka to live elsewhere. Nearly 6,000 Sri Lankans paid human smugglers to take them by boat from Indonesia to Australia in 2012 alone. The reasons are complex. There was a civil war in Sri Lanka between 1983 and 2009 between the government, which broadly speaking represented the majority Sinhalese population and the Tamil Tigers, who came from the Tamil minority. It is estimated that the war killed between 80,000 and 100,000 people. Many Sri Lankans who arrive in Australia today say that Sri Lanka is still a dangerous place where they face torture or worse. They claim political asylum when they are apprehended by the Australian authorities but the International Organisation for Migration has ruled that they are economic migrants, not refugees.

Ten years minimum sentence for people smugglers

Mr Kenney's governmental department Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) issued a press release on 7th January 2013 listing some of the measures that have been introduced recently to combat human smuggling including the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act 2012 which introduced a new mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for those convicted of people smuggling into Canada.

The CIC statement also explains that those who are brought to Canada by people smugglers will be detained while they are screened for security purposes. If it is determined that an individual arrived in Canada 'as part of a designated irregular arrival' they are 'now barred from applying for permanent resident status for five years. This means that they will be unable to sponsor family members to come to Canada during that period'.

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