Refugees or immigrants?

Newspapers and major TV newscasts have been full of coverage over the last few days with the arrival of a ship carrying Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, where a long-lasting bloody civil war ended in May 2009 as a result of a decisive military operation by government forces against separatist guerrillas.

The ship called MV Sun Sea declared it was carrying 490 refugees, some of whom may well be members of the defeated guerrilla movement.

Federal immigration authorities are currently processing cases of the refugees.

MV Sun Sea is known to have been refused permission by Australian authorities to dock at any port of that country before making Canada its destination.

There are several angles that one can look through at this case.

One can take a humanitarian approach and say that as a compassionate, civilized country, Canada should open its doors to people in difficulty.

But one would also be more than justified to take a cautious look at the whole thing because accepting these refugees can be harmful in more than one ways.

First and most important is that by accepting these refugees, Canada might be accepting potential danger into her borders.

Because they are not really refugees, but people in search of better living conditions.

It is not uncommon for people to carry their battles to their new homes once they get over the immediate threat of survival and get down to a normal pace of life.

Another subtle danger, with possibly more long lasting effect, is the fact that acceptance of these refugees will be interpreted by both those who are involved in human trafficking and would-be refugees as a tacit approval of the manner in which these refugees (immigrants) will have been allowed to start a new life. And that might well be taken as a sign of encouragement by those parties.

Australia and Canada are the two biggest immigrant attracting countries with the exception of the United States.

Both countries have well established rules, procedures and regulations to manage these processes.

And as you may well be aware, Canada has recently announced tough new restrictions in immigration policies, significantly reducing the number of immigrants to be accepted, lowering the number of job classifications under which immigrants can apply to be accepted as skilled workforce and increasing the requirement of funds for those who would like to settle in Canada as investors.

Of course, Canada will have to abide by her obligations under international conventions to look after the well being of these people as long as they stay under the jurisdiction of federal government, but accepting these immigrants into the country will probably set a bad precedent, not to mention the violation, in spirit, of the new regulations that have been recently introduced.

— Mustafa Eric