Two More Deaths in Canadian Immigration Custody

Rights groups call for urgent overhaul of Canada’s detention system following two most recent migrant deaths in immigration jail

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Story Transcript

ESTEFANIA ALFONSO: We’re here to demand an immediate end to immigration detention. We’re here because this week 2 people died and our government has yet to respond.

SHAGHAYEGH TAJVIDI, TRNN: Approximately 60 people gathered at an emergency vigil on Tuesday March the 15th in Toronto. To mourn the recent lives lost in immigration detention. They met in front of the offices of Canada’s border services agency, who they hold responsible for the deaths of 14 immigration detainees since the year 2000.

ALFONSO: Francisco Javier Romero Astorga who died 2 days ago his cause of death is still unknown.

TAJVIDI: Last week, 39-year-old Francisco Astorga from Chile and 64-year-old Melkioro Gahungu Burundi died just days apart in different detention centers in Ontario.

DR. ABEER MAJEED: The CBSA continues to cloak itself in secrecy refusing to release information about the circumstances of these deaths. We also know that they majority of these deaths are a direct result of people not receiving adequate medical care. Including adequate mental health care. This means these were preventable deaths.

TAJVIDII: The Real News contacted the CBSA for commentary on the recent deaths in detention. in response to which they read the media advisory. 

CBSA: Unfortunately, we can’t provide any information on that in result of the detainees passing. An investigation is underway by the various responsible agencies and the CBSA will cooperate fully.

KARIN BAQI: It’s really sad and of course there’s no public oversight of the regime that Canada Boarder Service Agency holds people in immigration detentions. This has been a call that numerous civil society groups, NGOs, international bodies have been making on the Canadian government for a long time now so not only have people lost their loved ones but there’s no accountability on top of it.

TAJVIDI: The cause of Atroga’s death is yet unknown but Gahungu like several detainees before him had committed suicide. He long suffered from mental illness and served nearly a 5-year prison term for the killing of his wife in 2009. But it was after serving his full sentence that he was then detained by the CBSA without charge and ordered for deportation. This practice of removing migrants from Canada after they have served a criminal sentence is what critics call quote “Double Punishment”. Critics like those in the 2013 documentary, Twice Removed.

ANDREA FIGUEROA: It’s like you being penalized, once through legal system and once then immigration. system. It applies for noncitizens so permanent residents, refugee claimants, refugees. This was implemented in 2001 by the liberals. They replaced a 25-year-old immigration regime with an immigration and refugee protection act. They included a section that talks about serving time in jail and then facing deportation as a consequence. 

NEVERHOME.CA (VIDEO): A lot of people here too they don’t have criminal records. They keep them here for a year, two years. What I’m looking at is another couple of years in here if my situation doesn’t change. If they don’t end this indefinite detention.

KARIN BAQI: The decisions to keep people detained are like really arbitrary. Completely non-sensible. People have been held for years, obviously without charge and without real recourse right. Often in this kind of process where they’re just kind of going down this rabbit hole of why these reasons are ongoing and when they’ll ever be released. This is in like fragrant violation of international laws.

TAJVIDI: It has been reported that the previous conservative government spent more than 256 million dollars to jail 8 to 10 thousand migrants per year. This includes children that are detained with their parents.

DR. JIM SUGIYAMA: Well I worked for about a year as a volunteer exercise instructor. This is the Rexdale Immigration Holding Center. There were a lot of children yes. They weren’t the majority of the population but they were certainly numerous. They are very sensorally deprived. They did have access to schooling but they really had access to little else.

TAJVIDI: According to the Toronto Star, in 2013 alone detainees were collectively held for 183,928 days. Which amounts to more than 503 years put together.

ALFONSO: Some people like Michael Mvogo who spent 10 years in maximum security prison and was then deported before his case could go to trial. England has condemned Canada not once but twice for human rights record, for migrants.

TAJVIDI: Activists are now taking their campaign to Ottawa to push for an end to indefinite incarceration and its harsh impacts on migrants in custody.

ALFONSO: This new government likes to say it’s for [SBGS] and for migrants and it likes to say that it cares about people and I would hope that they hear us. I know in a couple of weeks we’re going to be presenting a lot of documents to a lot of people in parliament and we’re hoping that once they know they implement policies to end immigration detention once and for all. Just period.

TAJVIDI: For the Real News Network, Shaghayegh Tajvidi, Toronto.

End

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