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 migrantstrike@gmail.com

Media Coverage

Media Coverage after Francisco’s death


Media Coverage on Abdi’s death

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OTTAWA SUN: Free jailed immigrants, group tells feds

Free jailed immigrants, group tells feds

by Doug Hempstead

Ottawa-born Deepan Budlakoti, 24, will appear in Supreme Court Monday, June 16, 2014 trying to get his Canadian citizenship back. The process has begun to deport the young man — convicted of selling a rifle to an undercover police officer when he was 19 — to India because that’s where his parents are from, but haven’t lived since 1984.

Like immigrants, he is fighting for his life to stay here.

Deepan Budlakoti, 24, appears Monday morning in Supreme Court and was hoping the group who gathered to march from the University of Ottawa to CBSA headquarters Sunday, would be there to support him.

Budlakoti is facing deportation to India after he was busted when he was 19 for trying to sell a rifle to an undercover police officer.

The trouble is, Budlakoti wasn’t born there — he was born here. His parents are from India but haven’t been back in that country since 1984.

A large segment of the more 100 protesters seemed to agree to join him outside the Wellington St. courthouse at 8:30 a.m. — an hour ahead of his court appearance.

Sunday they were marching to bring attention to their own demands to end immigration detention — following a three-day conference and week of activities.

The group claims FOI requests appear to show political interference in the immigration detention review processes.

They say detention release rates in Ontario have steadily dropped since 2008 when they were 21%, to 11.5% in 2012 and 9.3% in 2013.

Protesters say nearly 80,000 immigrants have been detained under the current federal government. More than a third are held in one of 142 mostly maximum-security prisons across Canada where there is no limit on how long they can be held.

At least 203 children were detained in 2013.

The marchers Sunday were drawing a link between Father’s Day and the detentions, as they claim the practice is detrimental to families. Continue reading

OTTAWA CITIZEN: They march in Ottawa to push for end to immigration detention

Syed Hussan, a Toronto member of No One Is Illegal, spoke at Sunday's end migrant detention rally  and led the chants as the group marched to Canada Border Services Agency HQ in downtown Ottawa.
Syed Hussan, a Toronto member of No One Is Illegal, spoke at Sunday’s end migrant detention rally and led the chants as the group marched to Canada Border Services Agency HQ in downtown Ottawa. 

Protesters marched to Canada Border Services headquarters on Father’s Day to fight Canada’s jailing of migrants, many of whom face deportation.

About 90 people came out to the University of Ottawa, where the 20-minute march began, wielding signs that said “End Immigration Detention” and “Support Migrant Strike” in reference to migrants in the Lindsay, Ont., maximum security prison who have been boycotting their detention hearings since early June.

Tings Chak, who helped organize the End Immigration Detention event, said a recent study by the organization shows a surprising dip in the number of people released from immigration jail. In 2008, 21 per cent of detainees were released, but in 2013 that number shrank to 9.3 per cent.

There are a number of reasons migrants who have lost their status, are without status or have precarious status get “stuck in this limbo,” Chak said.

“It could be that they had refugee status so they can’t be deported back to a country they will face persecution or that the country of origin doesn’t recognize them and some countries … won’t take people forcibly deported. And also there are moratoriums on places where we can’t deport them to; maybe there’s economic or civil unrest.”

Protesters gathered Sunday afternoon to protest the detention of migrants in Canada and marched on Canada Border Services Agency HQ in downtown Ottawa.
Protesters gathered Sunday afternoon to protest the detention of migrants in Canada and marched on Canada Border Services Agency HQ in downtown Ottawa. 

Chak, who is a Toronto member of No One Is Illegal, said Canada is one of the only western nations that doesn’t have a maximum detention for people awaiting deportation. The European Union has a six-month limit and in the United States it’s three months, she said.

“We don’t have an end.”

Chak said it’s also symptomatic of Canada’s changing immigration system for refugees, sponsorship requirements and temporary foreign workers.

“It’s becoming a system of permanent temporariness.” Continue reading

1310 News: Immigration detention protesters block entrance to downtown building

by Alex Black

OTTAWA – Protesters are standing off against police in downtown Ottawa, in front of the Public Safety Canada building near at Laurier Avenue and Bank Street.

As of 8 a.m., 20 protesters had blocked the front entrance of the office with a ten foot golden scale with a sign saying, “no justice in immigration detention.”

The group claims nearly 80,000 migrants have been jailed without trial and charges by the Harper government.

Protesters at the scene told 1310News they’re blocking access to the building because they want an explanation from the Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Link: http://www.1310news.com/2014/06/13/immigration-detention-protesters-block-entrance-to-downtown-building/

RCI Canada: détention arbitraire de sans-papiers

Par Anne-Marie Yvon | francais@rcinet.ca

Selon un rapport publié par le Réseau End Immigration Detention, le gouvernement canadien garderait indéfiniment en détention des migrants sans papiers.

Depuis 2006, 80 000 migrants ont été arrêtés, dont des enfants. Huit ans plus tard, beaucoup d’entre eux se trouvent toujours dans l’un des centres de détention au pays. Ces sans-papiers, dont beaucoup sont issus d’Afrique sub-saharienne, sont détenus sans qu’aucune accusation n’ait été déposée contre eux.

Le document nous apprend qu’en 2013 le Canada a libéré seulement 10% de ces étrangers emprisonnés au pays comparativement à 25% en 2008.

Pour le Réseau End Immigration Detention, ces détentions sont arbitraires, voire racistes, alors que pour les autorités canadiennes, ces migrants représentent un danger pour le public. Le gouvernement craint aussi qu’ils ne disparaissent au pays.

Dans des centres déjà pleins à craquer, il en coûte 3 185 $ pour détenir un migrant par année au Canada.

Toujours selon le rapport du Réseau End Immigration Detention, les conditions de détention sont pires pour les femmes que pour les hommes : on les force à remettre leurs enfants aux sociétés d’aide à l’enfance et leur accès à des traitements médicaux n’est pas adéquat.

L’asile ou la résidence permanente seraient aussi plus difficiles à obtenir que le permis de travail temporaire.

Le rapport propose au gouvernement canadien de ramener à 90 jours la période maximale de détention, en accordant aux migrants la présomption d’innocence comme le font les États-Unis et les pays de l’Union européenne.

Le Réseau End Immigration Detention dit avoir déjà essayé de contester devant les tribunaux ces détentions arbitraires mais en vain.

Des disparités géographiques même en détention

Un détenu a plus de chance d’être libéré dans l’ouest ou l’est du Canada qu’en Ontario ou au Québec.

Nombre moyen de jours passés en détention par région (2013):

Atlantique: 28
Québec: 21
Ontario: 38
Prairies: 32
Pacifique: 10
Moyenne nationale: 25

RCI avec Radio-Canada

Link: http://www.rcinet.ca/fr/2014/06/10/canada-detention-arbitraire-de-sans-papiers/

THE STAR: Report alleges “political interference” in migrant detentions

Foreign nationals are more likely to remain in detention in Canada for immigration violations as their release rates continue to fall since 2008.

Victor Vinnetou has been in immigration detention for 10 years. The South African man is believed to be the missing apartheid icon, Mbuyisa Makhubu. He has been detained because officials cannot confirm his identity.

A groundbreaking study accuses Ottawa of “political interference” in the detention reviews of foreign nationals held for immigration violations, citing the decline of release rates under the Conservative government.

Based on government-provided data, the End Immigration Detention Network, an umbrella group advocating for migrants, found that detention adjudicators released 15 per cent of the migrants on immigration hold at their detention reviews in 2013.

However, in the Central Region that covers Ontario where most of the migrants are held, the release rate was less than 10 per cent, compared to 27 per cent in Western Region in B.C. and 24 per cent in Eastern Region in Quebec, said the report, released at a news conference Monday morning.

By examining the decisions of adjudicators, who are all federal government appointees, researchers also found the same decision makers who sat on the tribunal from 2008 through 2013 appeared to have become less likely to release immigration detainees.

In 2008, the average release rate of the same 13 members was 21 per cent, which fell to 11.5 per cent in 2012 and 9.3 per cent in 2013, according to the 40-page report, titled “Indefinite, Arbitrary and Unfair: The Truth about Immigration Detention in Canada.” “Seen together, this data shows that the immigration detention review process, the fundamental structure that upholds the integrity of the entire immigration detention process is unjust,” it said. “The detention review process that is supposed to guarantee the fairness of all detentions appears to be entirely at the whims of an appointed board member, with devastating consequences on migrants and their families.”

In 2013 alone, the report said between 7,373 and 9,932 migrants – often failed refugee claimants, undocumented migrants and people having had their permanent resident status stripped – spent a total of 183,928 days in immigration hold. Detained children ranged from 807 in 2008 to 205 in 2013.

There are more than 145 migrants who have been detained for more than six months.
Researchers said the consistent decline in the release rate “defies” belief that such a systemic reduction took place without a policy directive or a political decision. “Any policy or decision to systemically reduce release rates would be political interference in the detention review process, throwing the entire detention system’s fairness and integrity into doubt,” wrote the report, authored by Syed Hussan and Macdonald Scott with Toronto’s No One Is Illegal, a member of the End Immigration Detention Network.

Individual release rates by adjudicators varied during the studied period. Member Valerie Currie, for example, ruled on 443 detention reviews but only released 21 detainees (5 per cent). Maria-Louise Cote oversaw 303 reviews and released 100 detainees (33 per cent). The End Immigration Detention Network urges Ottawa to end what it calls “indefinite detention” by releasing all migrant detainees who have been held for longer than 90 days. In cases where the detainee cannot be deported within 90 days, it says, the person must be released while waiting for the removal.


Boycotting immigration detention in Canada


truthcaboutdetentionLynval Daley has been in immigration hold for three years while Canada attempts to deport him to Jamaica. As a refugee claimant who came from Nigeria more than nine years ago, Azuka Abagbodi was detained upon attending his monthly visit with immigration enforcement in August 2012. He’s since been deported.

“What am I doing in a maximum-security prison for 28 months,” said detainee Amin Mjasiri. “28 months of my life, you cannot give that back to me. Even if you were to deport me right now, you cannot give that back to me.”

All three currently are or have been detainees at the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay, Ontario with other migrants. Pending deportation, they remain in immigration hold, separated from their families, unable to access legal counsel, and facing constant lockdowns. They’re deemed flight risks and detainedfor overstaying their visas or permits, or for having their permanent or refugee status revoked. Like failing to pay a parking permit or filing taxes on time, these migrants are only accused of an “administrative offense.” But unlike those other offenses, these are some of the only ones which lead to detention.

Today, a report entitled “Endless, Arbitrary and Unfair: The Truth about Immigration Detention in Canada” is being released by No One is Illegal — Toronto and the End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN), a coalition of migrant detainees, family members, and allies fighting immigration detention.

The report fleshes out the motivations for a month–long boycott begun last week today, on June 2nd, by over 100 migrants detained at the CECC, the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, and Toronto’s West Detention Centre.

They’re boycotting the empty promises of their detention reviews, where migrants “appear before an appointed ‘member’ of the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Immigration Detention division within the first 48 hours, then seven days, and subsequently every 30 days after their detention begins,” according to the report. Over the years, the authors of the report note, a rapidly decreasing number of migrants are released upon attending these meetings.

detention 3

Using government documents obtained through Access to Information and Privacy Act requests, the report found that release rates also vary widely — between five and 38 per cent — for individual decision makers. Valerie Currie, for instance, ruled on 443 detention reviews but only released 21 migrants (a five per cent release rate), while Maria-Louise Cote oversaw 303 and released 100 migrants (a substantially higher release rate of 33 per cent).

The report details regional variations as well. The chances of a detainee being released in the central region (Ontario minus Ottawa and Kingston) is nine per cent, while the chances of release are 24 per cent in eastern Canada and 27 per cent in western Canada. In the five-year period 2009 – 2013, detainees were held for ten days in Pacific Canada but were jailed for 38 days in Northern Ontario.

Typically, such a dramatic change would be the product of a policy directive or a political decision, yet the researchers found no public account of such memos. “There’s suspiciously consistent reduction in release rates which point to signs of political interference,” says report writer and No One Is Illegal — Toronto member Syed Hussan in a phone interview with The Mainlander. “That means that the Harper government and Steven Blaney [The Minister of Public Safety] need to explain this reduction.”

Such an explanation is particularly pressing since Canada detains migrants indefinitely –using the detention review as a justification. While the United Nations recommends a “presumptive period” — which usually lasts between 90 and 180 days — many migrants in Canadian detention centres are held for months, years, and some for close to ten years. But since the detention reviews occur no longer than 30 days since the last, according to the report, “the Canadian government insists that immigrants are not held indefinitely but simply for a month at a time, with the opportunity to be released at every review.”

The detainees are currently boycotting this sleight of hand.

On September 16 of last year, 191 detainees at CECC similarly staged a hunger strike to confront indefinite detention. Facing solitary confinement lasting between 23 and 24 hours for striking, and prevented from showering for as long as a week, detainees persisted to the point that some, like Mjasiri, lost 42 pounds in the first 43 days of his 65-day strike.

detention 2

They agitated against a form of migrant treatment that is not only unnecessary, arbitrary, and indefinite but increasingly widespread. While there are three official immigration holding centres in Canada, last year 142 facilities throughout the country were used for this purpose — ith some being maximum security prisons.

The budget for immigration enforcement ballooned from $91 million to $198 in 2012-2013, while the immigration detention budget sits at over $45.7 million per year. In the same period, 9,571 migrants spent time in immigration hold. Hundreds of children per year are also being detained, though the number could be higher since children are not counted as detainees, but rather as “accompanying their parents”.

All these facts and experiences — the worsening outcomes for migrants at their detention reviews, the indefinite detentions, the deportations — are ultimately the culmination of a series of deliberate policies.

In 2010, using the Sri Lankan asylum seekers who reached the shores of British Columbia on the MV Sun Sea as a pretext, the Harper government introduced “anti-smuggling” legislation which enforced a mandatory 12-month detention period for “irregular arrivals.” The Public Safety Minister, Blaney, would have the power to designate migrants as irregular if he suspects, for instance, that processing their case would take too much time.

This measure was influenced, in part, by the passing in 2001 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) — legislation created in the context of the state’s post-9/11 anti–terrorism efforts. One provision of the Act is the “security certificate” which allows for non-citizens who are considered a threat to the country to be detained and deported. “I’ve been in immigration hold since May the thirtieth, 2012,” says a detainee currently boycotting the detention reviews. “I keep hearing the same argument…that I’m a danger to the public and I’m a flight risk.”

“Under this Kafkaesque law,” Harsha Walia writes in Undoing Border Imperialism, “detainees can be imprisoned indefinitely without any charges ever being laid against them and face possible deportation to torture.”

immigrant detention 1

As these legal changes accelerate, and as anti-migrant sentiment among Canadians sharpens, the reasons why all of this is happening is still open to debate.

Today’s report, however, takes note of the connection between the growth of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and immigrant detention. “The legislated shift towards temporariness has been accompanied by an increase in immigration enforcement,” it explains. “As more people lose immigration status and become undocumented, immigration detention and deportation grows at an unprecedented rate.”

In turn, some researchers have unearthed the deeper motivations behind the shift away from granting permanent residence and towards temporariness. “Limits to (im)migration…lie in the ability of states not so much to restrict people’s mobility as to restrict their rights and freedom once they are within nationalized labour markets,” writes Nandita Sharma in “The ‘Difference’ that Borders Make: ‘Temporary Foreign Workers’ and the Social Organization of Unfreedom in Canada”:

Anti-immigrant discourse, far from excluding new (im)migrants from coming to Canada, has enabled national states to reorganize their nationalized labour markets in order to include a group of ‘temporary foreign workers’ who are made vulnerable to employers’ demands through their subordinated status as ‘temporary,’ as ‘foreigners,’ and as legally enforced unfree workers.

The same economic considerations which Sharma details are influencing the expansion of immigration detention, according to another researcher. “I think that part of the neoliberal containment state is the presentation of criminalization and incarceration as the alternative to working in a really exploitative low-wage job,” says Aiyanas Ormond, a community organizer for the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, in a phone interview with The Mainlander. “Either you accept the exploitative conditions, and the massive cuts to the social wage, or the alternative is criminalization and jail.” And that alternative is increasingly forced on migrants with the many changes to immigration over the years — changes which have, according to EIDN’s report, left 500,000 people undocumented in the country.

According to Ormond, the neoliberal containment state also functions to repress emerging, if only nascent, resistance efforts. “People who are coming to Canada from Mexico to paint condos are in many cases the same people who are fleeing areas devastated by Canadian mining companies and militarized by Canadian corporate aggression in Mexico or in the Philippines,” Ormond says. “I think that does present a serious threat to both the ideological justification of the neoliberal state and also materially in the sense of a potential organized force.” As a result, according to Ormond and other researchers, the Canadian state preemptively ramps up repression and criminalization of potentially organized and emboldened migrants.

But regardless of the potential explanations, the facts remain indisputable. Migrants accused of nothing more than an administrative offense are being detained indefinitely in facilities throughout the country. Rather than being able to stay in a country that many of them have lived in for years and sometimes decades, they are imprisoned. The detention review is a sham, with fewer and fewer people released over the years. And there’s almost surely political interference from legislators prepared to exploit migrants for gain.

Those detained today recognize the difficulty of their situation. Despite it, or maybe because of it, they boycott.

Read the full report here: http://www.truthaboutdetention.com/

Link: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/mainlander/2014/06/boycotting-immigration-detention-canada

Toronto Star: Red flags over Canada’s approach to detaining migrants who pose a flight risk: Editorial

Questions are being raised about the fairness, transparency, and consistency of Canada’s approach to detaining migrants from abroad who pose a flight risk.

Report by advocacy group says tens thousands of migrants from abroad are locked up in Canadian holding centres every year.

Report by advocacy group says tens thousands of migrants from abroad are locked up in Canadian holding centres every year.

Does Canada’s immigration system need to lock up people, sometimes for years on end, not because they are suspected terrorists or criminals but because a federal official worries that they may not show up for some future hearing?

Last year alone thousands of migrants from abroad – as many as close to 10,000 – found themselves locked up in Canadian holding centres, and more than 145 have been detained for more than six months, a new study by the advocacy group End Immigration Detention Network has found.

By and large these aren’t violent people who pose a threat to society. As the Star’s Nicholas Keung reports, most are failed refugee claimants, people without documents and those who have had their resident status revoked.

They are held because an immigration official suspects they may go underground to avoid deportation; because their identity can’t be established; or on suspicion that they may pose a risk to the public. Most are locked up for a few weeks then deported. Some are released in the care of a guarantor. But some are held indefinitely.

A man who entered Canada in 2004 with bogus documents under the name of Victor Vinnetou is the poster boy for this issue. He has spent a decade in detention. Granted, it’s hard to sympathize with someone who refuses to disclose his true identity or nationality so that he can’t be deported. But even so, a decade in detention is a harsh price to pay for being obstructionist.

On that score Canada is clearly out of step with the U.S., Britain and much of the European Union. After three to six months they free detainees while they await removal. We have no limit.

This issue has led to hunger strikes in the Ontario prison system and boycotts of Immigration and Refugee Board detention reviews by detainees who say the system is stacked against them. Advocates want an end to “endless detention.” And they object that many are held in maximum security. They want the process overhauled.

It’s a growing human rights issue. And it affects a lot of people.
Continue reading