Smugglers may have made more than $20 m from Migrant ship
The human smugglers behind the MV Sun Sea may have pocketed more than
$20-million for ferrying a shipload of Sri Lankan migrants to British
Columbia coast last week.
The passengers each paid $40,000 to $50,000 for the three-month
journey from Thailand, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told the
National Post in an interview.
He said his officials had advised him the Tigers rebel organization
was behind the operation, which he said was driven by profit motives.
While he said he did not know whether children or families got
discounts, he said that considering a ship like the Sun Sea costs about
$1-million, the profit margin was significant.
The smugglers had refitted the 59-metre cargo ship to maximize their
profits, he said. “All I can say is that the debriefing that I received
was that it is clear that this is the product of the efforts of an
organized criminal enterprise.
“In fact, the Sun Sea itself was modified in order to make this trip
and maximize the number of persons and the resulting profits. For
example, he said a sanitation system had been installed to accommodate a
large number of people for a lengthy voyage.
He said this was not a case of “people jumping on the first cargo
ship that happened to come by.” Rather, it was a deliberate attempt to
make money by cramming as many people as possible onto a small ship, he
Asked who was behind it, he said, “The evidence presented to me
suggests that its elements of the Tigers or LTTE.”
The minister said there was no truth to reports the ship had
originally intended to travel to Australia but had changed course after
Canberra made it clear they were not welcome.
He said the ship’s destination was always Canada. He also confirmed
the ship had sailed from the relative safety of Thailand, not Sri Lanka.
At a media briefing Saturday, Canadian officials said the migrants
were generally in good shape. None had any communicable diseases.
“Due to the size of the vessel and number on board there were
extremely cramped quarters,” said Rob Johnston, a CBSA official. “Having
said that, the vessel was in much better shape than expected.
“It was relatively clean and organized. A system had been developed
to dispose of waste and garbage. There were sleeping quarters on board
with hammocks. On arrival, it appeared the men and the women and the
children were housed in separate areas on board.”
- National Post