Canada intercepts 76 migrants off west coast
Vancouver: A ship suspected of carrying 76 illegal migrants was intercepted in the Pacific Ocean off Canada's west coast, police said.
Authorities including military, police and border agents "identified and secured a vessel displaying the name 'Ocean Lady' that was approaching the coast of British Columbia" province, said a statement Saturday from the Federal Border Integrity Program of Canada's national police force.
"Investigators have confirmed that there are 76 individuals on board whose stated intention was to reach Canada."
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the passengers were suspected illegal migrants.
"The signs do point toward human smuggling," he told reporters in Ottawa.
Police released photos of the rusted ship with dozens of men visible on board.
The nationality of the migrants and the ship's registry could not immediately be confirmed, although Canada's CTV private broadcaster reported the migrants were all men from Sri Lanka and the ship's crew was Canadian.
A search of international shipping registries showed a double-hulled oil tanker bears the same name as the intercepted ship.
Police said the ship was guided late Saturday afternoon by the police and military to Ogden Point, near Victoria, where authorities began "health and safety and immigration protocols."
"Our initial observations are they are in good health," said border official Rob Johnston.
Health and immigration officials were on site to being interviews and criminal background checks "should the people make refugee claims," he added.