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.

 

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#MigrantStrike – Week 1 Reportback

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

On July 11th, about 50 immigration detainees – mostly Black and Brown men – at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, and the Toronto East Detention Centre in Scarborough initiated a hunger strike. They are demanding a meeting with Minister Ralph Goodale to end their indefinite detentions in maximum security prisons.

Detainees called Goodale’s office, but were denied access to the Minister. His receptionist insisted that he and his staff are unable to speak to members of the public, and refused to provide further assistance in facilitating a meeting between Goodale and the striking detainees. While Minister Goodale’s office was brushing detainees offices, his office issued a media statement insisting that their approach to immigration detention was “world-class, including methods of enforcement, with effective transparency and accountability”. The Minister also insisted that immigration detention was a ‘last resort, after all other alternatives are explored’.

>>> Hear immigration detainee Toby Clark explain why they started the Hunger Strike.

On July 12th, hundreds of us called and tweeted Minister Goodale and we released a statement exposing Goodale’s lies while more people joined the hunger strike. We asked, at least three people have died in immigration detention since the Liberals took power, the Minister wants to believe that there was no other option but to let them die? How is not talking to the people directly affected transparent and accountable?

>>> Read our update here.

On July 13th, immigration detainees were locked up for 22 hours, from 6pm the night before in an obvious attempt to break morale and silence detainees. Despite this our spokespeople did 15 CBC interviews across the country and media reports continue to appear. Phone calls continue to flood Minister Goodale’s offices.

>>>> Hear immigration detainee Patrick explain the experience of the lock-down and how migrants continue to strike.

On July 14th, Colonialism No More – Solidarity Camp Regina, 88 day strong and ongoing encampment at Indigenous and North Affairs Canada (INAC) offices in Saskatchewan offered support for ‪#‎MigrantStrike‬ by organizing a picket at Minister Ralph Goodale’s office. We are greatly moved by this show of solidarity and uniting of struggles. See a picture here. On the same day, 65 health professionals wrote a letter to Minister Goodale urging him to meet immigration detainees.

>>>> See a self-portrait and poem by R.R who is on immigration detention where he explains his feeling of loss and stuck in limbo.

On July 15th,  we learned that the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU), after a year of investigations, decided not to charge police officers in Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan’s death. The same day the Coroner’s office announced a Coroner’s Inquest into his death.
It came as no surprise to any of us that the SIU found police not-guilty in the case of another Black Somali refugee’s death. The SIU consists of former cops investigating current cops and letting them free time and again for murder. At the same time we insisted that if Abdurrahman was not in detention, he would be alive.

>>>> While we are still figuring out how to share the very painful SIU press release with you, we spend Friday remembering the 15 people who have died in detention, 3 in just the last five months. See their names here.

On July 16 and 17, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) staff have been meeting with detainees, offering to separate and expedite some files for release. Detainees are refusing this divide and rule strategy. CBSA has said that changes are coming in the Fall and detainees are demanding changes in writing from Minister Goodale.

CBSA staff has also tried to separate some strike organizer and try to transfer them to other prisons, but thus far all of them have refused.

>>>> #MigrantStrike continues. Here is some selected mainstream media coverage on the strike.

#MigrantStrike Day 2 – More detainees join strike, Goodale brushes them off, then lies.

160712_Call GoodaleImmigration detainees jailed at two maximum security prisons are continuing to hunger strike to demand an end to indefinite detentions in maximum security prisons. The hunger striking detainees, who have increased to over 60, want to meet with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to discuss their concerns.

FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:
* CALL RALPH:  613-947-1153
* EMAIL RALPH: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca
* TWEET at RALPH: @RalphGoodale
* WATCH AND SHARE THIS VIDEO: https://youtu.be/i4YBlrlkIs8
* If you haven’t yet, sign their petition!

Detainees from – Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, and the Toronto East Detention Centre in Scarborough –  called Goodale’s office Monday, but were denied access to the Minister. His receptionist insisted that he and his staff are unable to speak to members of the public, and refused to provide further assistance in facilitating a meeting between Goodale and the striking detainees. Instead she insisted that detainees call their local MPs.

When detainees called their local Member of Parliament, MP Jamie Schmale, he refused to reach out Minister Goodale.

“Everyday we’re looking forward to changes to come, and we don’t know when they’re actually going to happen,” said hunger striking P.O., who has been imprisoned for the past two and a half years without charges or trial. “We’re protesting because we want to have a change. We want to have our freedom as well. That’s the main reason we are doing this.”

While Minister Goodale’s office was brushing detainees offices, his office issued a media statement insisting that their approach to immigration detention was “world-class, including methods of enforcement, with effective transparency and accountability”. The Minister also insisted that immigration detention was a ‘last resort, after all other alternatives are explored’.

Goodale want us to believe that jailing people for over five years without trial or charge is a last resort. At least three people have died in immigration detention since the Liberals took power, the Minister wants to believe that there was no other option but to let them die? How is not talking to the people directly affected transparent and accountable?

Now is the not the time to obfuscate and lie, Minister Goodale should visit these maximum security prisons, speak to immigration detainees, and commit to upholding human rights and international norms by ending immigration detention.

Nearly 70 people are starving themselves for basic justice, they deserve to be with their families and communities, not locked up without an end in sight. Support #MigrantStrike.

Visit our campaign site for more updates.

Act Now: Tell Ontario to #EndDetentions

160614_EIDN_MentalHealth_Rev-01.pngA growing chorus of voices are calling on Ontario to stop imprisoning migrants without charges or trial. The tide is turning, and a new Minister has been assigned to the issue. If we act now, we can end this unjust practice. 

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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 earlier this month.

Today 85 immigration detainees at Lindsay’s Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) are adding to the chorus, re-asserting their long standing demand to end their maximum security imprisonment in provincial jails without charges or trial. Help to amplify their message by calling, emailing and tweeting today, scroll below to see how. One-third of all immigration detainees in Canada are held in provincial jails, even though immigration is a federal matter.  

“Everyone 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.” – Ebrahim Toure, forty-five, from Guinea who has been detained for three years and seven months at CECC without cause. 

Continue reading

Deaths in Detention: Families need answers – Call Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety TODAY

Francisco Javier Romero Astorga died 10 days ago and CBSA has refused to explain why he died. They haven’t even contacted his family. Francisco’s family want to know why their brother died, they want the Federal government to pay for his body to be sent home, they want to assurances that this will never happen again. And they are asking for your help.

Read the letter to the Canadian public from the Francisco’s family: https://endimmigrationdetention.com/2016/03/22/franciscofamilyletter/

WHAT: Please call Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety at 613-991-2924 and ask him to release information to Francisco’s family, pay for transportation costs, and commit to ending detentions.

WHEN: Thursday, March 24

HOW: Sample phone script below. Continue reading

Grieving family seeks answers for death in immigration detention.

Media Contact: Macdonald Scott, 647 761 3860
Full family statement and pictures can be found here

 

Toronto – Ten days after his death in Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) custody, the grieving family of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga are still seeking answers. To date, CBSA has not revealed Francisco’s name and has not contacted his family with details on his death. Migrant justice groups are criticizing CBSA’s lack of transparency and insisting on an end to immigration detention.

The family made an appeal to the Canadian public this afternoon for help in getting answers. “Francisco left Chile in perfect health, he spent much of his recent time in Canada in immigration detention and now he is dead.  All we know is that the cause of death is ‘undetermined’, it makes no sense,” said his brother Esteban over Skype at a press conference in Toronto today.

“Francisco was a dreamer who was always looking to make the future brighter. He went to Canada for a ‘new beginning’ and we can’t rest till we at least know how he died, and that other families will not suffer like us,” added his sister Cecilia.

While the CBSA has not even released Francisco’s name, Francisco’s family members contacted the migrant justice coalition and detentions watch-dog End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN) after reading about the group’s vigil for deaths in detention last week.

“Francisco would not be dead today if he had not been in immigration detention,” says End Immigration Detention Network member Macdonald Scott. “How can someone just die in government custody and we are told that the cause of death is unknown? There have been 14 such deaths in immigration detention since 2000, 7 in just the last three years. Immigration detention is killing people and it must end.” Continue reading

Public Letter from the Family of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga

Please read full press release accompanying this open letter here.

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, Francisco Javier Romero Astorga – our brother, our son – died in immigration detention custody. No one has told us how Francisco died, or why he was in prison. To date, no one from the federal Canadian government, including the Canada Border Services Agency, has contacted us. We do not know of an autopsy and no results of any tests or reasons for his death have been given to us.

All we know is that his body lies in a hospital, and that we must pay nearly $10,000 to bring his body home to give him a proper burial. Our brother, our son’s body has been in a hospital for ten days already, and we are in pain every minute that passes. Behind all this tragedy is a family and a mother who are grieving.

We are writing this open letter to the Canadian government and the Canadian people to request information and support. We want to know why our son, our brother died. We want to know what the Canadian government is doing to make sure this does not happen to anyone else again. We want the Canadian government to provide us the financial resources to return Francisco to us so that he can be laid to rest.

Please sign this petition calling for an end to deadly immigration detentions! Continue reading