This morning, Mr Michael Mvogo will be back in front of an administrative board demanding his release from indefinite imprisonment at a maximum security prison in Ontario, where he’s being held despite a United Nations Opinion calling for his release. In a decision rendered in June of this year, with implications for all immigration detainees, the UN also asked for repatriations for Mr Mvogo for 8 years of jail without trial or charge.
In an almost unheard of legal step, lawyers for Mr Mvogo will finally get the chance to cross examine a Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) officer who was involved with Mr Mvogo’s detention for many years.
“Canada Immigration should follow International law and respect human rights. Its been three months since the United Nations said I should be freed, but I am still behind bars. Does Canada immigration listen to no one? Is there no one to stop their abuses?” said Mr Michael Mvogo in a statement released today.
The decision in Mr Mvogo’s case was issued by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions. The Opinion, the first of its kind against Canada, condemned Canadian immigration detention and reiterated the UN’s position that immigration detention should be the final resort, and should be for the shortest length possible. Non-cooperation from countries of origin and inability to identify a detainee also cannot be grounds of detention. Canada has failed on all four of these grounds. This decision impacts the approximately 10,000 detainees jailed in Canada each year.
“Not only is the Canadian government continuing to ignore the UN opinion, they are flagrantly disrespecting the United Nations and international law. Canada refused to respond to the United Nations before the decision was rendered in June and now they are asking to re-do the entire process claiming they were not provided an opportunity to respond,” says Jean Vecina, Mr Mvogo’s lawyer.
Despite the United Nations ruling, no judicial steps exist for Mr Mvogo to be released. He can plead his case in front of an administrative tribunal (Detention Reviews) as he is doing today but he has no access to judicial appeal if he loses. At the most, he can request that the Federal Court judicially review the decision. Even if that request is granted, which is rare, and he wins at the Federal Court which is nearly impossible due to prior case law, he would simply be sent back to a Detention Review rather than be released. A recent report by the End Immigration Detention Network showcased immense discrepancies between decision makers at Detention Reviews.
“Mr Mvogo’s case, though extreme for the number of years that it has taken, is not exceptional. CBSA refuses to reveal how many people it detains each year for longer than 90 days but it could easily number over a 100. They should all be released,” adds Tings Chak, one of Mr Mvogo’s supporters who will be at the Detention Review Tuesday morning. “Migrants like Lucia Jimenez, Joseph Dunn, and Jan Szamko have died in immigration custody, the UN is calling Canada a rogue state that breaks international law, and the Red Cross has criticized detention conditions. What will it take for CBSA to change its ways?”
Mr Mvogo is jailed at Central East Correctional Centre where immigrants jailed without trial or charge have been carrying out a protest strike since September 2013. Migrants are demanding a 90-day limit on detentions pending deportations, an end to maximum security imprisonment of immigrants, and a complete overhaul of the detention review and judicial review system that governs detentions.
– United Nations opinion on Canadian immigration detention: https://endimmigrationdetention.com/2014/07/24/united-nations-body-issues-damning-opinion-against-canadian-immigration-detention/
– Groundbreaking study of immigration detention in Canada: https://endimmigrationdetention.com/2014/06/09/groundbreaking-report-on-immigration-jail-reveals-troubling-patterns-signs-of-political-interference/
– Backgrounder on 1-year long, and ongoing immigrant protest-strike: https://endimmigrationdetention.com/faq/