Canada nabs suspected migrants off Pacific coast

Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:03pm EDT
 
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada has detained a ship believed to be trying to smuggle more than 70 migrants onto its Pacific coast, police and government officials said on Saturday.

A rusting merchant vessel named Ocean Lady was intercepted by a Canadian navy frigate off Vancouver Island on Friday, and the people on board said they were attempting to reach Canada, law enforcement officials said.

The origin of the vessel and nationalities of the 76 people on the ship were not immediately known, but Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan told reporters in Ottawa there were indications the people had come from Sri Lanka.

The 76 men all appeared to be in good health, a Canadian Border Service Agency official said.

A police photograph taken from a helicopter showed about four dozen people on the ship's deck, many with their hands raised in surrender.

The ship was escorted to a dock near Victoria, British Columbia, where the passengers and crew were being taken off the vessel to be interviewed and detained by immigration officials, police said.

Several boats attempting to smuggle migrants across the Pacific from China were detained by Canada a decade ago, but there have been no reported attempts by vessels in recent years.

(Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Peter Cooney)

 
<p>Photos released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police show a ship called the Ocean Lady (top) which was intercepted and boarded by an RCMP emergency response team off the British Columbia coast early October 17, 2009. REUTERS/RCMP/Handout</p>