Reuters: A Canadian minister urged the Sri Lankan Government to respect human rights and said it is one of the key reasons for increased migration from the island. Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is in Sri Lanka to discuss human smuggling issues.
Addressing a news conference on yesterday in Colombo at the start of his visit, the minister stressed the need for the Sri Lankan Government to respect human rights and pursue political reconciliation with minority Tamils.
“The Sri Lankan Government should make every possible effort to pursue political reconciliation in good faith. To address many of the serious outstanding issues from the conflict, including returning people to their homes, to viable communities, to eventual demilitarisation of the affected areas, to an independent Judiciary, to general respect for human rights, to accountability for the most serious crimes that were committed on both sides during the conflict.
“To identify the whereabouts of people still missing during the conflict. These are some of the bench marks that we are watching and which we think have created an environment which helps to lead to some of the pressures for emigration,” he said.
The minister said 300.000 Sri Lankans live in Canada most of whom fled during the 25-year-old Tamil separatist war.
“Here is a troubling fact. We see more efforts by Sri Lankan nationals to pay smuggling syndicates to come to Canada and Australia now that we did during the conflict and that for us a worrisome sign,” he said.
The last major human smuggling operation was in August 2010 when a ship with almost 500 Sri Lankan asylum seekers reached Canada. The minister said that many other attempts have been thwarted since then.
“The smugglers targeting Canada have been stopped. Since the arrival of that vessel in August 2010, several planned large-scale human smuggling missions destined for Canada have been stopped. Thousands of Sri Lankans have paid large down payments to smugglers to be taken to Canada, but they have been arrested, detained, returned or left stranded in transit countries,” he stated.
Canada has threatened to boycott the Commonwealth head of state meeting in Colombo in November this year saying the Government’s human rights record is appalling.