Ottawa: Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews renewed calls on Wednesday for tougher measures to curb human smuggling, amid reports the defeated Tamil rebels are regrouping in his country.
Toews said "new information" suggests that "syndicated criminal networks are organising migrant smuggling ventures potentially destined for Canada”.
Without elaborating, he said "action is needed now... before further boats turn up on Canadian shores”.
The Ottawa Citizen, citing unnamed security intelligence sources, reported that exiled rebel leaders from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were re-establishing their violent Sri Lankan separatist movement in Canada.
"We don`t know how far advanced it is, but their intent is pretty clear -- to set up a base-in-exile here for the leadership. Some leadership is already here," a government official was quoted as saying.
The newspaper also said intelligence sources warned that two ships may be launched from Asian ports carrying as many as 50 former Tamil Tiger rebel leaders and fighters headed for Canada`s west coast.
Canadian border officials detained 492 Tamils who arrived in August aboard the rickety cargo ship MV Sun Sea. Another 76 were arrested a year earlier upon arrival to Canada`s west coast aboard another freighter.
Canada and Sri Lanka alleged the migrants may have included members of the Tamil Tigers, outlawed in Canada as a terror group before their defeat in 2009 by Sri Lanka`s government after a lengthy civil war.
The proposed changes to Canada`s immigration act would impose mandatory minimum prison sentences on convicted smugglers, and hold ship owners and operators to account for use of their ships in human smuggling operations.
Smugglers and their co-conspirators would also face up to a year behind bars while their identity and admissibility is determined.
The ruling Conservatives are seeking the support of opposition parties to pass the amendment when Parliament resumes at the end of January.