Immigration Detentions watchdog concerned about possible strong-arming of Jamaican government

Toronto, August 30, 2016 — The End Immigration Detention Network is raising concerns about the suspicious and sudden promise of travel documents in the midst of Mr Alvin Brown’s fight to be released from detention being heard by the Ontario Superior Court this week. Mr Brown has been under a removal order since 2005, and has been imprisoned since September 2011. Canada has not been able to secure travel documents from Jamaica to date. Today, as Mr Brown for the first time is finally getting his day in a court where litigation may result in his release and reparations, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has produced an email from the Jamaican consulate promising issuing of travel documents.

“Why did it take 11 years for CBSA to get the promise of a travel document, and how did it suddenly happen in the midst of litigation? The public should be gravely concerned about the possibility of CBSA strong arming foreign governments to subvert the establishing of precedent and good case law. One may think this was coincidence had the exact same thing not happened in our previous Habeas attempt in the case of Michael Mvogo and Glory Anawa. In any case, we need the Federal government to step in, rein in CBSA, place a 90 day limit on detentions, end maximum security imprisonment, and overhaul the judicial review process as initial steps to ending immigration detention.” said Syed Hussan of the End Immigration Detention Network.

Mr Brown’s case is only possible because the Ontario Court of Appeals asserted jurisdiction in a previous immigration detainee group Habeas Corpus case in 2015. The two lead claimants in that case where Mr Michael Mvogo and Ms Glory Anawa. Before Mr Mvogo and Ms Anawa could have their hearing on facts – which is what Mr Brown is engaged in this week – both of them were deported. A third claimant, Ms Amina Chowdhury was offered a settlement by CBSA and so no case law was created. Mr Mvogo at that point had been in detention for nearly 10 years, and Ms Anawa for almost four years and travel documents, previously unavailable, were suspiciously produced in the midst of litigation in 2015 too.

Jamaica relies heavily on Canadian aid. The Canadian Special Operations Regiment is currently based in Jamaica. Over 8,000 Jamaican farm workers came to Canada in 2016 under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. Jamaican Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson was visiting Canada just earlier this month. All of this, in addition to the suspicious timing of Mr. Brown’s travel documents, leads to serious concerns of CBSA engaging in strong-arming the Jamaican Government.



Media Release: Ontario Court asks Border Enforcement to explain Indefinite Detention



Media Contact: Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632

Ontario Court asks Border Enforcement to explain Indefinite Detention

Toronto, August 30, 2016 — The Ontario Superior Court is set to hear a historic case today, when it will call on Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Department of Justice to justify the imprisonment of Alvin Brown, detained since September 2011. This is an almost unheard of occurrence where a provincial court is stepping in on a federal immigration detention matter.

Detainees, advocates and even the United Nations in 2014 have insisted that there is no fair judicial oversight of immigration detention in the federal system. The Ontario Court’s decision to hear this case justified this position. The End Immigration Detention Network, which is supporting Mr Brown, is insisting on a fundamental overhaul of federal immigration detention including overhaul of the judicial oversight process, a 90 day limit on detentions, and end to maximum security imprisonment as initial steps to ending immigration detention.

IMAG1739“Mr Brown is in indefinite detention without any possibility of release as a result of lack of policies limiting detention in Canada,” said Mr Macdonald Scott, Counsel for Mr Alvin Brown at a press conference Tuesday morning. “He has no option but to turn to provincial courts to end his incarceration, but not all detainees can avail this path which shows the need for immediate legislative reform.”

Mr Alvin Brown, forty, has lived in Canada since the age of eight. He was a permanent resident, but is now subject to a removal order to Jamaica. That removal order, however, cannot be executed. Notwithstanding this fact, he has been detained “for removal” for nearly five years, since September 2011.

“Mr Brown is stuck in a system that he can’t get out of, he can’t be deported, no laws compels his release and as a result he is getting sick, can Minister Goodale guarantee that Mr Brown will not die next?” said Syed Hussan, spokesperson for the End Immigration Detention Network. “While we hope that the Ontario courts release Mr Brown who has spent most of his life in Canada today, we are also calling on the Ontario government to refuse to do CBSA’s dirty work, and stop detaining migrants, and on the Federal government to bring in new laws that end unjust immigration detention.”

15 people have died in immigration detention since 2000, three in just the last six months. Canada is one of the few countries in the world without a limit on detentions, and a third of all immigration detainees are imprisoned in maximum security provincial jails primarily in Ontario.

In July, immigration detainees across Ontario went on hunger strike in support of their demands and requesting a meeting with Ralph Goodale, Federal Minister for Public Safety. Detainees have continually asked for a clear commitment from political representatives to bring Canada in line with international best practices and end indefinite maximum security detention. Over 17,000 people have signed a petition in support.

“Mr Brown is being punished three times, first he was sentenced for a crime, then his permanent residency was revoked, and lastly he has been imprisoned for nearly five years without charges or trial or end in sight,” added Hussan on the steps of the Ontario Superior Court. “Every part of the immigration detention system is broken, and must be transformed, we don’t need more prisons, we need new laws.”

Two weeks ago, Minister Ralph Goodale announced a prison build program as part of overhaul of Canadian immigration detention, but did not deal with the fundamental issues of indefinite detention in maximum security prisons without judicial oversight.

Key facts about immigration detention & violations

  • Since 2000, at least 15 immigrants have died in CBSA custody, 3 in just the last six months. At least 8 of the deaths took place in Ontario provincial prisons. Most common cause of death is denial of adequate health care followed by suicide. CBSA has never publicly revealed details of all the deaths in its custody.
  • Over 7300 migrants were detained without charges or trial in 2013. Approximately, one-third of all detention happens in maximum security provincial facilities rented out by provincial governments to Canada Border Services Agency. 60% of all detentions take place in Ontario. In 2013, migrant detainees spent a whopping total of 183,928 days (that’s over 503 years) in immigration detention. Detentions cost over a quarter of a billion dollars over five years.
  • CBSA regularly imprisons children. At the same time, it does not report on imprisonment of children with Canadian citizen insisting that they are ‘accompanying’ their parents.
  • Canada is one of the few western countries in the world without a time limit on detentions, thus some immigrants have been jailed for over 12 years without charges or trial. The United Nations has twice asked Canada to end this practice. 146 doctors, nurses and social workers and 109 lawyers called on Ontario to end the province’s deal with Ottawa that allows the jailing of immigration detainees in provincial prisons in June 2016.
  • There is absolutely no system to determine under what circumstances some detainees are held in one of three federal immigration holding centres (Toronto, Laval and Vancouver) and the rest in provincial jails.
  • The decision to detain or release is made by civil servants, who are not legally trained, known as Board Members. Board Members release rates vary arbitrarily between 5% and 38%. Release rates also vary by region, 9% in Ontario, and 26.5% in the rest of Canada. There is no comprehensive judicial oversight of these decisions. An immigration detainee does not have an automatic right of appeal.
  • If convicted for a crime, immigrants unlike citizens are punished three times. First, for the crime itself. Second, by having their immigration status revoked or if it’s in process, denied, and pushed into deportation. Third, by being jailed, in some cases indefinitely.
  • The purpose of detention is stated to be ‘flight risk’ or ‘danger to the public’. There exist no criteria to make this designation, and no appeals process or access to courts to challenge it. Immigration detention is limited to undocumented residents – who may be denied refugee claimants, migrants who overstayed their work, study or visit permits or former permanent residents who had their status revoked. Contrary to popular perception, 94.2 percent of refugees are detained on grounds other than being an alleged security threat.

July #MigrantStrike Media

Media Contacts:

Tings Chak, 416-276-2174, End Immigration Detention Network

Media Advisories

July 21: As time runs out for federal immigration detainees in provincial custody, advocates urge Ontario to step in
July 15: No answers in mysterious death of immigration detainee increases calls for end to detentions
July 12: Goodale’s ‘Last Resort’ Detentions, Indefinite and Deadly
July 11: Immigration detainees refusing food to call for end to indefinite maximum-security detention

For background information, email

Media Coverage

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.” Continue reading

Family of man who died in immigration detention seeking answers

Toronto — Grieving parents and siblings of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga, who died in immigration detention on March 13th, will be asking the Canadian public for help to obtain answers about Francisco’s death in a press conference via Skype on March 23, 2016. The Canada Border Services Agency or the federal government have not even publicly released Francisco’s name and are yet to explain the cause of Francisco’s mysterious death in immigration detention. End Immigration Detention Network will join them in calling for answers and demanding an end to immigration detention.

Francisco is the 14th person known to have died in while being detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and is the second person to die in CBSA custody in the span of a week. On March 7, 64 year old refugee Melkioro Gahungu committed suicide under CBSA’s watch in immigration detention rather than be deported to Burundi from where he fled. Currently a protest is underway outside Toronto Police Headquarters by Black Lives Matter Toronto against a number of instances of anti-Black violence in Canada including Mr Gahungu’s death.

WHAT: Parents and siblings of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga from Chile will share information about their brother and release an open letter calling for an explanation for his death. 

WHEN: 1pm, Wednesday, March 23, 2016

WHERE: Suite 223, 720 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
VISUALS: Parents and siblings of Francisco on Skype, pictures of Francisco and his family. 
Interviews before and after with the family will not be possible, so members of the press are encouraged to attend the press conference on March 23.

Continue reading

Second death in immigration custody in one week reignites calls for detentions overhaul

End Immigration Detention Network
March 15, 2016

Media Contact: Syed Hussan (416 453 3632), Estefania Alfonso (416 809 7620) – No One Is Illegal – Toronto

Second death in immigration custody in one week reignites calls for detentions overhaul

Toronto — Immigration rights coalition End Immigration Detention Network is enraged and dismayed after a second immigration detainee died in Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) custody in one week. An emergency vigil will be held at CBSA offices to call for immediate action from the Trudeau government to end indefinite detention, end the use of provincial jails for immigration detention, overhaul of the judicial review process, and create an oversight body over the CBSA as first steps towards ending immigration detention.

WHAT: Emergency Vigil Against Deaths in Immigration Detention
WHEN: 7pm, Tuesday, March 15, 2016
WHERE: CBSA Offices, 74 Victoria Street
VISUALS: Dozens of concerned residents at candlelit vigil holding names and pictures of detainees who have died. Continue reading

Release: Mourners demand inquest, action over death in immigration custody

Lack of Coroner’s inquest, and continued use of Ontario prisons for federal immigration enforcement sparks calls for change.

Toronto – A petition initiated by 88 immigration detainees in the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay and signed by over 1500 people will be delivered to Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi today, August 10th, Prisoner Justice Day, calling for a coroner’s inquest into the death of Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan (Abdi). Abdi, a 39 year-old Somali refugee had been in immigration detention custody at CECC for three years when he was transferred to the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, and died on June 11th. The only known circumstances of Mr Hassan’s death comes from a short SIU statement saying that he died after being “restrained by officers”. Residents are also calling on Ontario to cut ties with federal immigration enforcement, and stop jailing immigrants without charges or trial on the federal government’s behalf. The agreement between the two parties is up for renewal in January, 2016.

Continue reading