Ship seized trying to smuggle migrants into Canada

CTV NEWS…Seventy-six would-be migrants have been taken into custody in Victoria after the RCMP commandeered the ship that had been carrying them off the coast of British Columbia.

The RCMP vessels Higgitt and Lindsay, and the Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Regina, escorted the ship to port after it was intercepted.

The vessel was sailing under the name of “Ocean Lady.” Its crew is reportedly Canadian, and its passengers are believed to be from Sri Lanka.

Both passengers and crew were in good health, considering they had been at sea for some time, the Canada Border Services Agency’s Rob Johnston said at a news conference.

“Even though we’re satisfied, we are making arrangements for medical examinations as we process them through,” Johnston said.

Crowds of people gathered along the water where the ship docked. However, officials put up tarps to keep the vessel and its cargo out of sight.

“Each passenger came off one by one, rather than all coming down at once,” said CTV’s Jim Beattie. “They have all been interviewed, processed, checked for health concerns.”

The passengers are of varying ages, he said, but officials were not saying whether there were children on board.

Ottawa has indicated it was tipped off about the approaching ship by its “security partners.”

“We believe this has been an operation for a week at least as they’ve watched this vessel head towards North America,” Beattie said.

Pictures of the “Ocean Lady” released by the RCMP show people wearing civilian clothes, waving to a helicopter overhead.

“The RCMP took steps to intervene with close support of the Canadian Forces and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA),” Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan said in a statement. “An RCMP Emergency Response Team trained in maritime intervention boarded and took control of the vessel.”

There were preliminary indications that the ship originated in Sri Lanka, Van Loan added.

Officials in Ottawa said the passengers will be detained for the time being. They will be moved from Victoria to Vancouver in the coming days, where authorities will determine what to do with the group.

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