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'Refugees are not in the same 'boat''

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Harini Sivalingam, lawyer, community activist and PhD candidate at York University, wrote about the arrival of the Ocean Lady and Sun Sea in Canada ten years ago, carrying Tamil refugees who "fled horrors in their homeland in search of safety, security and stability."

"Immediately upon arrival, these refugees were detained, locked up, and interrogated, many of them for lengthy periods of time. In the case of the MV Sun Sea (which arrived carrying 492 Tamil men, women, and children 10 months later in August 2010), families were separated, and children were detained."

"In contravention of international refugee norms, the Canadian government shared personal information about these refugees with the very government they were fleeing: the Sri Lankan state. Once released from detention, most of the claimants waited in limbo for years for their first refugee hearing."

"Ten years later, the vast majority have settled well, but some have slipped through the cracks facing difficult challenges of integration. Most of those who came on the Ocean Lady and Sun Sea carry with them deep-seated trauma having witnessed and experienced horrendous human rights violations, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide during the armed conflict in Sri Lanka."

"What can we learn from the experiences of mass maritime arrivals of refugees? We discover that we are not all in the same 'boat.' Apart from Indigenous peoples, we all came on differents 'boats' and at different times. While some of us are now safely on land, asylum seekers are still at the outskirts in rocky lifeboats."

"Understanding who these people are and why they came here is pretty straightforward. They are like any of us, just in different 'boats.'"

See the full piece on The Star here.