UNHCR encouraged by Canada's efforts to receive ship carrying Sri Lankans

OTTAWA, Aug. 13 /CNW/ - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is encouraged by actions on the part of the Canadian authorities to receive and provide assistance for a boat carrying people, reportedly Sri Lankans of Tamil origin, that arrived in British Columbia earlier today.

The steps that have been taken so far to ensure safe disembarkation, reception, medical and other care are welcome, as are preparations aimed at ensuring that any individuals among this group who may be seeking asylum have their claims properly examined. While refugees and illegal migrants often use the same routes and modes of transport, sometimes illegal, it is important to understand that refugees are a distinct group and have specific and vitally important protection needs. UNHCR is concerned that unscrupulous smugglers profit from human misery and supports States in their efforts to combat criminal activities.

In the case of Sri Lanka, UNHCR has recently issued revised guidelines to assist decision-makers in reviewing claims to asylum. Those guidelines include our recommendation that in light of the improved security situation since the end of Sri Lanka's conflict in May 2009, claims by asylum seekers from that country should be considered on their individual merits.

UNHCR appreciates the access it has been given in Canada with respect to asylum seekers and proceedings, enabling the organization to fulfil its supervisory obligation.  A principal concern for UNHCR is ensuring access to and well-being of individuals at all stages of the process, including keeping families together and meeting the particular needs of women, children and other vulnerable persons.


UNHCR and governments share a responsibility to make sure that refugees have access to safety and protection. The linkage between movements of refugees and asylum seekers and the broader phenomenon of international migration has attracted considerable attention over the past decade. Web pages discussing aspects of international migration of particular concern to UNHCR including rescue-at-sea are available at cr="true" href="http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a1d406060.html">http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a1d406060.html

For further information on these topics, please contact:

In Geneva: Babar Baloch, + 41 79 557 9106, email: cr="true" href="mailto:baloch@unhcr.org">baloch@unhcr.org

SOURCE United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

For further information: For further information:

Gisèle Nyembwe, 613-232-0909 ext. 225, email: nyembwe@unhcr.org

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