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The UN is giving Canada the thumbs up for its handling of a boatload of 490 Tamil migrants who were smuggled into the country off the coast of B.C. last week.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees on Tuesday praised Canada for accepting the third largest amount of Tamil refugees of all the wealthy countries.
The UNHCR in a press briefing in Switzerland said the arrival and disembarkation of the migrants were well-handled by authorities.
“Refugees are a distinct group with critical protection needs,” briefer Andrej Mahecic said. “It is not a crime to seek asylum.”
The body singled out the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) for its processing of the MV Sun Sea migrants.
“The reception site was well designed,” Mahecic said. “The priorities for safe disembarkation of the ship were clearly defined with medical needs topping the list for those on board, who included men, women and children.”
The UNHCR said due to improving conditions in Sri Lanka “claims by asylum seekers from that country should be considered on their individual merits rather than on a group basis.”
Its officials said there are 146,100 Sri Lankan refugees in 64 countries. The top countries for resettlement includes India, with 73,200 claimants accepted, France with 20,500, Canada with 19,150 and Germany with 12,250.
The bottom of a Top 10 list of countries for accepting Tamils included Australia, which has accepted 2,000, the U.S. with 1,500 and Italy with 960.
Mahecic said there are currently about 7,500 Sri Lankan migrants claiming refugee status in 57 countries. Some 34,000 asylum seekers last year filed refugee claims in Canada, including 76 who arrived by boat in October 2009.
He said the UN will monitor the resettlement of the migrants to ensure “compliance with the relevant provisions” for the treatment refugees.