Break the Media Silence: Spread the Word About the Hunger Strike

CALL MIN RALPH GOODALE! ASK HIM TO END INDEFINITE DETENTION
613-947-1153 / @RalphGoodale / ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca
SIGN THIS PETITION: https://www.change.org/p/no-more-deaths-no-more-detentions

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If you are in Toronto, join this event on November 9th: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/998

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Banners Dropped Across the Country – End Detentions!

October 21, 2016 — As immigration detainees continue their third hunger strike, allies across the country dropped banners insisting on ‘Indefinite Resistance to Indefinite Detention’.

Coordinated by End Immigration Detention Peterborough

BREAKING: 17 Immigration Detainees Refusing Food at Ontario Maximum Security Prison

IMG_6255Two months from the date that Minister Goodale promised changes to the immigration detention system, 17 immigrants, jailed without charges and trial at the Central East Correctional Centre have begun to refuse food as of October 17. The immigration detainees are calling for an end to indefinite detention, with a 90 day limit on detentions, as an initial step to ending detentions.

One of the men on strike is Kashif Ali, who has been in immigration detention for a total of 12 years. He says, “I swear every night I sleep three or four hours, I don’t know if I will be released or put on a plane. They are making me go crazy, I can’t sleep, I am depressed, I have stomach problems. People like me, I am not fighting them, but we can’t be deported, we should be released, given ID and papers and the support to work. This is why I am going hungry.”

Ali, a 50-year-old Ghanian asylum seeker has been in Canada since December 1986. He has a 26 year old daughter in Newmarket and a common law partner. He was put in immigration jail in 1994, and deported to Ghana on fake Canadian travel documents in 1996. As a result of being deported on forgeries, he was jailed in Ghana for 10 months. He was then returned to Canada, where he was placed in immigration hold until 1999, when he was abruptly released without ID, work permit or social assistance. Ali struggled to make ends meet, and was rearrested in 2009, and has been in indefinite immigration since.

CALL MIN RALPH GOODALE! ASK HIM TO END INDEFINITE DETENTION
613-947-1153 / @RalphGoodale / ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca
SIGN THIS PETITION: https://www.change.org/p/no-more-deaths-no-more-detentions

If you are in Toronto, join this event on November 3rd: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/998

“We have been on hunger strike twice this year, most recently for 19 days, at the end of which we were promised real change. The Minister went on the record and said that immigration detention is broken, but he did not specify long-term and indefinite detention which impacts many of us, separating us from our families and making us sick. Consultations were promised, and yet, have not taken place directly with detainees, while we are the primary stakeholders. We want an end to indefinite detention, we don’t want to be locked up in maximum security prisons, we want real access to effective legal remedies to contest our detention,” stated one of the strike organizers, on behalf of the 17.

Read End Immigration Detention Network’s analysis of what has been happening in immigration detention and the recent announcements here.

Hunger strike forces announcement on detentions – the struggle continues.

On August 15, the Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pitched a new national immigration detention strategy. Before we share our analysis of this announcement, let us first discuss the context within which the announcement was made.

Melkioro Gahungu, Francisco Astorga, and an as-yet unidentified man, died in immigration detention in the last six months. Three deaths under Goodale’s watch, and not a single word of apology, accountability or responsibility from the Federal Liberals.

The silence was broken only when dozens of people put their health and lives at stake. On July 11th, around 50 immigration detainees began a hunger strike in two Ontario prisons. The strike grew to over 60 detainees by Day 2. The hunger strike lasted 19 days and during this time supporters of migrant justice took to the streets in Regina, Ottawa, Toronto and Peterborough. In Goodale’s hometown, indigenous land defenders at the Colonialism No More camp showed up again and again at Goodale’s offices and public appearances until he met with them. Solidarity messages and letters of support flooded in. Hundreds of us called, emailed and tweeted at Minister Goodale.

Goodale spoke, not because of the goodness of his Liberal heart, but because we – all of us, but most importantly immigration detainees – pressured him to do so. And it wasn’t easy. Goodale tried to ignore us, and tried to dismiss our pressure with a public blog full of lies and misrepresentations.

Now, let us examine the announcement. $138 million will be used to renovate or rebuild two (of the three) immigration prisons in Canada, in Laval, Quebec and Vancouver, British Columbia. $10 million of these funds will be allocated to mental health supports. Consultations will take place at some point, likely by invitation, to make further changes.

We do not expect radical transformation from any government body, but we asked ourselves: Would these changes have kept Melkioro, Francisco, Abdurrahman or anyone else alive? Would these changes mean that individuals would not be jailed in maximum security prisons? Would these changes mean that individuals and families and children would not be jailed indefinitely without charges or trial? The answer to all of the above is a resounding No. In fact, the Liberals’ only response to the hunger strike denouncing gross human rights violation in detention is to pour money into detention centres. This level of cynicism is disgusting.

To answer yes to those questions, the Federal Liberals would have to pass laws, or propose regulations, or at least make a policy changes that end indefinite detention, that end the detention of children, that end the maximum security imprisonment of detainees. The entire process by which detainees are detained would need to be revised (see explanation).

That hasn’t happened – and so our work is far from done. Just last week, we were in court with Alvin Brown, who was imprisoned without charges or trial for over five years. We used a creative, and never-tried-before legal strategy, to get the Ontario provincial courts to rule on a federal immigration matter. While we were expect the ruling to come in a few weeks, CBSA was up to its dirty tricks. Alvin Brown was deported in the middle of the litigation, suspiciously timed to ensure that case law favourable to immigration detainees wouldn’t be created. His lawyers are still seeking damages.

Over the next few months, we will be in the streets, the courts, in MP offices, and on social media raising hell, and seeking your support to end immigration detention. But know this, the fight is far from done. 

End Immigration Detention Network

(End Immigration Detention Peterborough, End Detentions Vancouver, Fuerza Puwersa and No One Is Illegal – Toronto)

As post-script, we must note three other things:

  1. Cloaked in sunshine, sparkles, and grand boasts of being different from the previous Conservative government, the Federal Liberals’ prison expansion project was developed under the previous government, which is why money had already been earmarked and this announcement could be made. The Toronto Immigration Holding Centre is already being expanded, expected to be completed by January 2017, at a cost of some $40 million.

  2. As organizations and individuals, we have come together in the broader work of ensuring freedom to move, return, and stay. We are campaigning against indefinite immigration detention because of who detainees are. Detainees are racialized people forced to flee the ravages of capitalism, war, environmental disaster and social oppression. They arrive here, and are denied basic services because of racisms, and ingrained anti-poor structures. A few turn to crime, and end up in prison faster and for longer because of anti-Black racism. Some cannot be deported because they come from underdeveloped countries which cannot provide the documentation Canada unjustly demands, or because those countries very rightly refuse to accept detainees if they’ve spent most of their lives in Canada. To call for an end to immigration detention is to call for an end to racisms, patriarchy, displacement, and unjust exploitation of the Global South. Since September 2013, we’ve built relationships with immigration detainees, some who have been released, some who have been deported, and some who remain imprisoned, and this campaign is guided as much by their vision as it is ours. 
  3. Our work is one of solidarity. Over the last few months, we have repeatedly heard governmental bodies, and even non-governmental groups suggesting that detainees shouldn’t be kept with ‘criminal populations’. We reject this suggestion. First, most people imprisoned in provincial prisons, where immigration detainees are locked up, are legally innocent, that is they have not had a trial. Second, prisons are not places for rehabilitation or corrections, they are spaces of punishment that provide no resources for individuals to live a life of dignity on the outside. Finally, most people in jail are poor, in jail for crimes against property – and in our society of racism, and capitalism, the burden of the crime cannot be borne by the individual, without profound restructuring of all of social life. As such as individuals, we join with everyone organizing for the abolition of the prison industrial complex.

 

#Migrant Strike Week 2 – Detainees running out of time, CBSA trying to break the strike

IMG_6255Today, immigration detainees in two prisons in Ontario are beginning the third week of their hunger strike. The last few days have been extremely hard on hunger-striking detainees, please read below to see why.

As Dr Michelle Fraser recently explained,

“By now their bodies have switched to emergency energy sources causing a buildup of metabolic byproducts that makes them feel unwell. They are experiencing lightheadedness, heart palpitations, and feelings of weakness. They feel chilled, they have headaches, and they feel generally unwell. Their mood and mental functioning are affected leading to irritability, apathy, and mental lethargy.”

This is a crisis and we need your support to make sure that Minister Goodale does the right thing and meet with the detainees before a tragedy occurs.

CALL / EMAIL / TWEET at MINISTER RALPH GOODALE
Ask him to meet the detainees.
613-947-1153 / @RalphGoodale / ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca
SIGN THIS PETITION: https://www.change.org/p/no-more-deaths-no-more-detentions
If you are will an organization, please write a letter to Minister Goodale asking him to meet with detainees. Email the letter to migrantstrike@gmail.com

Here’s a recap of what’s happened in Week 2. For Week 1 recap, click here.

On July 18, organizers in Peterborough visited MP Maryam Monsef’s office demanding she support immigration detainees. See pictures here. Activists also did a solidarity banner drop in Vancouver. On that same day we heard reports that guards were placing food plates inside the cells so that hunger striking detainees had to stare at their food, rather than not serving those who were refusing.

On July 19, protesters were outside a secretive immigration consultation with Minister McCallum in attendance in Toronto, while indigenous activists and allies confronted Minister Ralph Goodale in Regina demanding that he meet with immigration detainees. See pictures here. Instead of agreeing to meet, Minister Goodale published a blog in Huffington Post.

The same day we released a statement in response to SIU’s brutal and dehumanizing press release about Abdurahman’s death. It’s the most read post on our site, read it here.

On July 20th, we responded to Minister Goodale’s blog with our own, insisting he must act before more people suffer or die. Read it here.

On July 21st, activists in Ottawa protested outside the Ministry of Public Safety’s offices demanding that Goodale meet with immigration detainees. See photos and report-back here.

In Toronto, doctors, lawyers and immigration detainees did a press conference calling on Ontario to step in and urge the Federal government to meet with detainees.

We also shared a story of Black youth and allies visiting detainees in Lindsay.

July 22 – 24, On Friday, End Immigration Detention Peterborough released an open letter to MP Maryam Monsef, read it here.

Disturbingly, we are seeing the prison authorities, likely under CBSA instructions, doing everything in their power to break the strike. One of the key strike organizers is being deported today, Monday July 25th after 26 months in prison. Others are being threatened with transfers, and some long-term detainees are being promised release but no real steps have been taken.

Detainees are also not being allowed out of their cells most of the time, and this lockdown is making it difficult for detainees to organize and communicate with each other and those on the outside. As some detainees get sick, or are under enormous pressure, they are choosing to start eating. We honor their courage for continuing for so long. Others are continuing to refuse food. We will support them, no matter what they decide. 

Please take action today by calling, emailing and tweeting, see above for contact info. 

SOLIDARITY STATEMENTS FOR MIGRANT STRIKE

SELECTED MEDIA COVERAGE

SIU releases graphic and dehumanizing report of Abdurahman’s last breath

 From: "Carl, Julie" Subject: FW: Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan Date: 18 June, 2015 5:25:27 PM EDT To: Photodesk - Toronto Star Are these good enough to run? -----Original Message----- From: Kelly, Frances Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015 5:23 PM To: Gentle, Irene Cc: Carl, Julie Subject: FW: Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan -----Original Message----- From: Keung, Nicholas Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015 5:22 PM To: Photodesk - Toronto Star Cc: Kelly, Frances Subject: Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan

Trigger warning for descriptions of police and medical abuse. 

At 6:20pm, last Friday evening, the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) released its decision to not charge police officers for restraining Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan as he died on June 11, 2015. The decision was issued in the form of a press release, and the details were not shared with the family prior to it being sent to the media.

The press release is brutal, dehumanizing and graphic, and we have struggled with how to share it with you.  

Since we’ve read the press release, many of us have cried for hours. Those of us that have suffered directly or seen our loved ones experience imprisonment, denial of immigration status, medical pathologization, and disturbing abuse for mental health illnesses are devastated and filled with rage. We have found solace in all the healthy and unhealthy ways we know how to cope. For us, and possibly for you, this press release is beyond triggering.

The SIU press release – which doesn’t even name him – describes Abdurahman’s death throes in dispassionate detail: armed police officers using a rolled towel to hold down his face until he dies. This press release paints a picture of Abdurahman that must be fought and negated.

Abdurahman was a joyous man. He loved his nieces and nephews and wrote them long letters promising to take them to amusement parks when he was finally released. He was funny and joked with fellow prisoners, nurses, even the corrections staff.

He had a limp – a result some say of being beaten in prison. He had diabetes, and sleep apnea, and a number of psychological ailments for which he took medication. All this, at a young age of 39. A result of a difficult life, yet he spread happiness everywhere he went.

He came to Canada as a refugee in the 1993 from war-torn Somalia. He was a teenager. While his siblings and mother were granted permanent residency status, his permanent residency was delayed and then denied because of petty crimes. The instability of living without status worsened his psychological health. In 2012, he was separated from his sister, nieces and nephews and jailed in a maximum security prison, Central East Correctional Centre (CECC), on behalf of Canada Border Services Agency. At monthly hearings, government lawyers argued that he would be deported soon, but deportations to Somalia are almost impossible so he remained indefinitely imprisoned for over three years until his untimely death.

The press release details how Abdurahman was sedated after being pinned down by police officers once already. Nurses and police officers re-entered the room to clean it, and when he woke up, they held him down until he died. The release outlines a few very specific actions by Abdurrahman, that are intended to dehumanize him. In it, the SIU insists that medical asphyxiation was not deemed a cause of death so the officers cannot be held liable. To date, more than a year later, no cause of death has been issued at all.

There are many questions, from the particular to the general. Why was Abdurahman held down with a towel wrapped around his face? Why did police officers hold him down without being instructed to do? What is the cause of death? What happened in the day leading up to his death – what care was provided? How was he treated in immigration detention? Did he get the supports he needed? Why was he in a maximum security prison for three years without trial or charges? Why can Somalia not issue travel documents and knowing that it can’t why does Canada indefinitely detain migrants where no deportation is possible? Why was Abdurahman’s refugee status revoked? Why was Abdurahman jailed and not given support when he first arrived in Canada? Why did his family flee Somalia?

We know some of the answers for they lie in the interlocking systems of imperialism, capitalism, racism particularly anti-Black racism, ableism, the prison industrial system and lack of support for people with mental health illness. The system did not fail Abdurahman, it worked exactly as intended.

The press release outlines the minutes before his death as utterly rational. The nurses and police officers were simply trying to clean, we are told. His life, his body deemed filth, had to be quickly sanitized. At issue, we are told, was his resistance, not all of the ways in which he was denigrated till he arrived in that bed. Everything seems routine and by the book.

The SIU an unaccountable and opaque system unlike few others has cleared police officers of any wrongdoing. A Coroner’s inquest will take place in two years but that will make no finding of guilt and its recommendations do not need to be implemented. The CBSA, as always, has nothing to say. This is how they want Abdi’s story to end, without anyone being held accountable. This we refuse. We indict all the systems that colluded in his death and we commit yet again to fighting them. Today, about 50 men are on hunger strike. Each of them fears dying like Abdurahman. This, we cannot allow. 

In hospitals, corners are disliked, they are seen as places for germs to aggregate–hard to sanitize. In prisons, human beings are isolated into individual cages, sometimes in segregation, because our oppressors know the power of aggregated human bodies. Let us be the germs in every crack. Let us aggregate. Let us build movements stronger than their prison walls.

Today we remember Abdurahman’s smile, his love, his desire for life and his desire for freedom. Today we insist even more passionately, not one more. End immigration detention.

You can read the SIU report here (all of the trigger warnings), but please share this blog post and not the SIU report itself as it is traumatizing to many: http://www.siu.on.ca/en/news_template.php?nrid=2697

In grief and hope,
Members of End Immigration Detention Network