Survivors of a yacht that broke down and began taking on water in heavy seas off Nova Scotia are claiming refugee status and the incident — which claimed one life and left three people missing — is being treated as a possible attempt to smuggle people into Canada.
“This tragedy highlights the need for speedy passage of the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in a media statement. “There is an enormous and unnecessary risk involved with the act of human smuggling. Our government’s message is clear to those contemplating a human smuggling operation — don’t do it.”
The 32 foot vessel, which Toews identified as the s/v Tabasco 2, was carrying nine people when it ran into mechanical difficulties and heavy seas about 93 miles off Cape Sable Island.
Search-and-rescue crews in a Cormorant helicopter located three people, one of whom died on the way to hospital, said Capt. John Pulchny of CFB Greenwood, N.S.
A tanker, the FSL Hamburg, which received a distress call from the yacht, recovered three more passengers and was transporting them to Saint John, N.B., while three others have not yet been accounted for. The search for them was continuing in stormy weather and high seas.
“I’ve been told that the survivors do believe those missing are wearing life-jackets,” said Pulchny.
Once in Saint John, officials from the Canada Border Services Agency were expected to meet with the three people being transported on the tanker, said CBSA spokeswoman Chastity McKinnon.
Maj. Paule Poulin, a spokeswoman for the Halifax search-and-rescue center, confirmed the sailors are “foreign nationals” but did not specify which country or countries they are from.
“Based upon the accents (of those rescued), the crew believes they are from Europe,” Pulchny said.
Under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, or Bill C-31, “bogus” refugee claimants would be deported faster, there would be a clampdown on human smugglers and certain visa holders would be required to turn over biometric data.
Officials said two of the survivors were listed in serious condition and were receiving medical attention in Yarmouth, on the southern tip of Nova Scotia.
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