MEDIA ADVISORY: Nearly 200 Immigration Detainees Striking Over Prison Conditions

Lindsay, ON, September 23, 2013 –Over a 180 immigration detainees in Lindsay, Ontario’s Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) began protest actions on Tuesday, September 18th against conditions of their detention. The detainees were recently moved from other prisons in the Greater Toronto Area, about two hours away, and have lost touch with families and legal support as a result. Conditions at Lindsay are substantially worse for them then before. Some prisoners began a hunger strike on Wednesday which has now ended but other strike actions are continuing.

The detainees have listed demands to CECC, and they are as follows:

– Better access to medical care and social workers
– Cheaper phone calls and access to international calling cards (many have family overseas)
– Access to better food, like the food on the non-immigration ranges
– An end to constant lockdowns
– Keep the improved canteen program going
– Better access to legal aid and legal services
 
Additionally, detainees are demanding that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) grant specific requests to move individuals to facilities nearer to their families, legal resources, and social services. The strike began on Tuesday morning when detainees refused to re-enter their cells. Negotiation with CECC officials led to detainees gaining access to the same canteen as the rest of the prison population. Detainees met with CBSA on Saturday.

“These immigrants are long-term detainees, people immigration enforcement cannot deport but will not release. People are held for ‘security’ reasons but this can be based on as little as a criminal charge that didn’t lead to a conviction or even being rude on arrest.” explains immigration consultant Macdonald Scott. Two of Scott’s clients are part of the strike actions. 
 
“Some people have been in jail for over 7 years because Canada unlike the US and UK has no limit on how long someone can be held prior to deportation. Conditions have dramatically worsened for many of the detainees after being moved to Lindsay,” Scott added.
 

CECC houses long-term male immigration detainees in six immigration units. In August, an additional 191 detainees were transferred from the Greater Toronto Area to the Lindsay facility, almost two hours away. This move further isolates detainees from family and legal support.

“The strike at CECC can be traced directly back to Canada’s ongoing harassment and abuse of immigrants and migrants,” says Emelina Ramos, a migrant justice advocate with the group Fuerza/Puwersa. “The number of people being detained for immigration reasons is escalating, along with the systematic dehumanization of migrating peoples and their families.”

No One Is Illegal – Toronto member Syed Hussan agrees. “Over the last 10 years, migrants on temporary permits like refugee claimants arriving in Canada has grown by 60%, while the number of permanent residency visas being granted has stayed the same. More and more families have to make the difficult decision to stay in Canada undocumented without rights and services. First Canada steals status from these families, and then it jails them. This is untenable.”Supporters say immigration detainees at CECC are given sub-par food, are subject to more frequent and longer periods of lockdown and have less access to recreation and services than the rest of the prison population.

Detainees are asking supporters to contact CECC Superintendent Neil Neville and CBSA to communicate their demands through a petition at https://endimmigrationdetention.wordpress.com/. He can be reached by phone at 705-328-6009 and by email at neil.neville@ontario.ca. Neville was in charge of Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) in 2009, when two inmates died. He left EMDC in May 2011, and took on several roles within the provincial bureaucracy before taking over in Lindsay. Inquests held into the 2009 deaths painted a picture of an overcrowded, understaffed EMDC with inadequate medical care and supervision of inmates.

Media contacts:

Mac Scott, Carranza LLP
647-761-3860

Emelina Ramos, Fuerza/Puwersa Guelph
1-866-443-1055

Syed Hussan, No One Is Illegal – Toronto
416 453 3632

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BACKGROUND ON IMMIGRATION DETENTION 
source: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/ImmigrationDetention2012

* Between 2004 and 2011, 82,000 people were locked up in immigration detention. At least another 25,000 have been imprisoned since 2011. In 2012, 289 of the detainees were children, many of them under the age of 10.

* There are three dedicated immigration detention centres in Canada: in Toronto, in Laval and in Vancouver. The Kingston centre, specially built for the security certificate detainees, known as “Guantanamo North”, was quietly closed in 2011.

* The rest of the detainees including those on strike actions, about 35% of the total are held in maximum security provincial prisons, some unable to leave their cells for 18 hours a day.  

* Though immigrants are depicted as security threats, only a tiny minority are detained on such allegations. In fact, 94.2% of refugees are detained for reasons completely unrelated to security or ‘danger to the public’.

* 4.8% of the detainees are children. This number however does not include minors “accompanying” their parents.

* $53, 775, 000 in public money is spent on immigration detention annually or $239 per day. Comparatively, a unit of social housing can be provided at less than $31/day. The total cost of immigration detention including surveillance and supervision of immigrants, particularly of security certificate detainees and those not in detention is much higher.

* Immigration detention centres are run in partnership with private companies like G4S, Garda and Corbel Management Corporation. In Toronto alone, G4S and Corbel were paid $19 million between 2004 and 2008. Garda has the contract for the Laval Immigration Holding Centre.

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