Release: Immigration detainees call for end to imprisonment in Ontario’s maximum security prisons again

Toronto — Over 85 immigration detainees in Ontario’s Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay are calling on MPP David Orazietti, Ontario’s new Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to end their detention in maximum security prisons. This call comes on the heels of open letters by 146 doctors, nurses and social workers and 109 lawyers demanding an end to the province’s deal with Ottawa that allows the jailing of immigration detainees in provincial prisons. Immigration detention is imprisonment without charges or trial.

Ebrahim Toure, forty-five, from Guinea who has been detained for three years and seven months at CECC without cause says, “Everyone in here has mental health problems. Once a month a psychiatrist comes to talk to you, and they only give you a sleeping pill. This is not helping my mental health, it’s making me sleep, that’s it. We don’t want to sleep, we want to be healthy. We are refugees being treated like bad people and nothing ever changes. Immigration detention needs to stop now.”

One-third of all immigration detainees in Canada are held in Ontario provincial prisons, which are designed and operated for people facing criminal charges or serving criminal sentences. Immigration detainees are held here even though immigration is a federal administrative matter and immigration detainees are not serving sentences. Of the 15 known deaths in Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) care, at least 8 were being held in Ontario provincial prisons. Two of these people, Francisco Romero Astorga and Melkioro Gahungu, died in the same week in March of this year.

“Immigration detainees, doctors, lawyers and community organizations are all calling for the same thing – an end to maximum security imprisonment in Ontario prisons,” says Karin Baqi of End Immigration Detention Network. “When will Ontario do the right thing and stop doing immigration enforcement’s dirty work? They can’t keep people alive, so they shouldn’t be jailing them.”

“I hope that this call is the last call needed to finally put an end to all detentions,” adds AB, forty, who has been in Canada since 1992 and been in detention since August 2015. “I have schizophrenia and am bipolar and am living proof that maximum security imprisonment causes further mental health detriment. Since I’ve been detained, and with the lock-downs in Lindsay I’ve had mental health problems. I’ve been seeing stuff, hearing stuff, and I’m going through depression because of the uncertainty of not knowing when I’m gonna get out .”

A secretive contract between Ontario and Canada released by the End Immigration Detention Networkshows that Ontario directly profits from these detentions, getting paid 20% more than the actual cost of jailing detainees.

Immigration detainees at Central East Correctional Centre have been calling for a 90 day limit on detentions, an overhaul of the judicial review process and an end to maximum security imprisonment since September 2013.


Media contact: Karin Baqi, 647-402-4048, End Immigration Detention Network

Detainees are reiterating their call following health professionals and lawyers calling on Ontario to cease incarcerating non-citizens in provincial jails. Michaela Beder, MD is available to comment on the health professionals’ letter,Prof. Audrey Macklin is available to to comment on the lawyers’ letter.

Known deaths in CBSA custody

In Ontario prisons

  1. Francisco Javier Romero Astorga (March 2016) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
  2. Melkioro Gahungu (March 2016) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
  3. Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan (June 2015) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
  4. Joseph Dunn (September 2014) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
  5. Unidentified man (March 2013) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
  6. Shawn Dwight Cole (December 2012) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)
  7. Kevon O’Brien-Phillip (January 2010) Beaten by fellow inmates (in Ontario provincial prison)
  8. Sheik Kudrath (April 2000) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)

Outside Ontario prisons

  1. Unidentified man (May 2016), Cause of death unknown (Edmonton remand centre)
  2. Prince Maxamillion Akamai (April 2014) Denied adequate medical care (Toronto Immigration Holding Centre)
  3. Lucia Vega Jimenez (December 2013) Suicide (in Vancouver immigration holding centre)
  4. Unidentified man (August 2010) Cause of death unknown (in Laval immigration holding centre)
  5. Jan Szamko (December 2009) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
  6. Joseph Fernandes (January 2007) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
  7. Unidentified man (Unknown) Cause of death unknown (unknown) – only reported in CBSA documents but no other details.

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