Ship full of Sri Lankan refugees nears Canada: reports

MONTREAL, August 11, 2010 (AFP) – A ship full of Sri Lankan refugees was less than 320 kilometers (200 miles) from Canada’s western shores and could be arriving late Thursday or Friday, local media said Wednesday. In May last year, capping a four-decade civil war, Sri Lankan government troops finally defeated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam.

US media earlier this month reported that US and Canadian authorities were monitoring the Sun Sea cargo ship in the Pacific as it was heading for Vancouver, in British Columbia, carrying refugees from the Sri Lankan civil war.

According to The Washington Post, the refugees include members of Sri Lanka’s separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, which the United States and Canada deem a terrorist organization.

David Poopalapillai, a spokesman for Canadian Tamils, dismissed such allegations and blamed the Sri Lankan government of spreading rumors that the Tamil refugees belong to the separatist group.

Canadian authorities, however, take the possibility seriously and are preparing to detain the refugees from two to four months to verify their identities, Canada’s Globe and Mail daily said Wednesday.

CBC television reported the ship