Detainee Strike Organizer Amin Mjasiri Deported

“Are the actions undertaken by immigration canada unjust? I would go so far as to say their actions are inhuman, despicable and grossly hypocritical” Amin Mjasiri, on the phone from Kenya

On March 27, 2015, Amin Mjasiri, a migrant justice activist, father, and friend was forced to board a plane en route to Nairobi, Kenya after being jailed in immigration detention for 45 months. Amin Mjasiri is part of a movement of migrant detainees who began striking on September 17th, 2013 to protest against arbitrary detentions, bogus judicial review processes and imprisonment in maximum security jails.

Since September 2013, Amin has been a friend, a comrade and a key organizer inside Lindsay’s maximum security prison. Many of us on the outside have come to rely on him for strategies, ideas, and inspiration. His warmth and friendliness a daily reminder of survival and resiliency in the face of cruel border controls and prison sentences. We are hurt, and disappointed that Amin is not just on the other side of a glass window but thousands of miles away. At the same time, this targeting and deportation of Amin strengthens our resolve to continue until all these border walls fall.

We first came into contact with Amin in September 2013. In October, on the 26th day of his hunger strike, Mjasiri released this statement,

“The reason for my hunger-strike is indefinite detention, the uncertainty of the outcome of whether it is going to be deportation or release…Immigration is punishing me right now. Because to them they say this is not a punishment, then what am I doing in a maximum security for 28 months. 28 months of my life, you could not give that back to me. Even if you were going to deport me right now. You could not give that back to me.”

Amin’s imprisonment continued for a year and half after this statement. A total of 45 months of his life, that cannot be given back, were spent in detention while Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) forced the Government of Kenya to issue him travel documents.

Amin has been an outspoken organizer from the beginning of the End Immigration Detention Campaign and was the longest of the hunger strikers in 2013; striking in isolation for over a month. Lawyers for CBSA, in part, have used this strike and his activism as a reason not to release Amin over the last 18 months. In fact, the CBSA tried to deport him to a second country, which he has no relations to, rather than release him to his friends and family in Canada.

On Monday, March 23, 2015 Amin was given travel documents for a flight scheduled four days later. He was forced to leave behind his loved ones and return to Kenya, a country he has not lived in or even visited for over two decades, and which has not regarded him as a citizen.

Although no longer in Canada, he plans to continue to organize against immigration detention and deportation. So will we.

Read the full transcript from interviews with Amin during his hunger strike in 2013.

We visited Naqvi, will you call him? (with pictures)

On November 18th 2014, we sent a letter to Ontario Minister responsible for prisons Yasir Naqvi demanding that he cut all ties with CBSA and stop collaborating in the indefinite, cruel and unjust detention of migrants in Ontario’s maximum security prisons. The Minister, who is also the Ontario Liberal House Leader, has yet to reply and Ontario continues to profit from Harper’s anti-immigrant laws. Immigration detentions must end.

So on March 16, 2015 representatives from the End Immigration Detention Network, No One Is Illegal Ottawa and Parent-Child Coalition for Justice visited Minister Naqvi and demanded that he act now.

Add your voice to ours. Take action with us!

* SIGN THIS PETITION: https://www.change.org/p/harper-end-indefinite-immigration-detention
* WRITE/CALL/TWEET AT YASIR NAQVI: Demand that the he end the imprisonment of migrants in Ontario prisons without trial or charge.

Tweet: https://twitter.com/yasir_naqvi
Call: 416-325-0408, 416-325-7754, or 613-722-6414
Write: ynaqvi.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

SOME FACTS:

  • Immigration detention is imprisonment without trial or charges.
  • Of the 9,932 detentions that took place in 2013, 2,434 detentions took place in Ontario’s maximum security prisons. At any given time, between 520 and 700 people are in immigration detention in Canada. About 40 per cent of them are in Ontario provincial jails.
  • In fiscal 2013-2014, the Feds paid Ontario more than $21 million for jail space for immigration detainees.
  • The release rate at the monthly detention review hearing where continued imprisonment of immigrants facing deportations in Central Region (Ontario, minus Ottawa and Kingston) is 9%. Its 25.5% in the rest of the country.
  • Detainees in Ontario jails spend an average of 40 days in custody – twice the 20-day average for immigration detainees in general. Some, of course, are in jail for 8-10 years. Detainees in Lindsay stay an average of 82 days there (allowing for early release, that’s equivalent to a four-month jail sentence for someone in the criminal justice system).

IMMIGRATION DETENTION
** Is not a provincial matter
** Is imprisonment without an end in sight
** Lacks due process
** Separates families
** Kills

Our letter to Naqvi.

We Want Them Back! We Want Them Free! Don’t Separate Our Families

Nearly a 150 of us descended on to the Central East Correctional Centre on Monday, Feb 16th. With the weather dropping below -30 celsius, plus windchill, we gathered with our breaths and hearts warm, calling for an end to immigration detentions and deportations.

Led by the high-school organizers from our Youth Committee, we marched right around the prison to where the immigration detainees are imprisoned. Seeing us, hundreds of prisoners banged on their glass windows, raised fists, and waved prison-made flags at us.

Melika Mojarrab, 15, whose father Masoud Hajivand is imprisoned at Lindsay spoke of her family’s separation. Breia, 16, whose brother is in detention thanked those gathered, and Martin who was released after 36 months in immigration detention insisted that we cannot stop until the injustice of immigration detention is over.

Pictures by Shaghayegh Tajvidi

 

Our letter to Provincial Corrections Minister, Yasir Naqvi

Original letter as mailed: Request for Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to cease collaboration with CBSA

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and the Government of Ontario must cease collaboration with Canada Border Services Agency and refuse to hold people in provincial jails, including indefinite maximum security prisons. This is because:

1. Immigration enforcement is not a provincial matter:
In the early part of the twentieth century, jurisdiction regarding immigration was divided between the federal government and the provinces/territories. Under this division, the Federal government is responsible for immigration enforcement. Provinces/territories have created immigration programs, but these are to bring people into these areas, and have nothing to do with enforcement.

2. Immigration detention is imprisonment without an end in sight:
Canada is one of the only Western countries without a limit on immigration detention pending deportation. According to the latest reported data, there are currently at least 146 migrants who have been in jail for over 6 months nationwide.

3. Immigration detention lacks due process:
The detention review process which justifies continued immigration detention places the onus to be released on the detainee. Detention Reviews have been shown to be rife with disturbing discrepancies between different immigration detention board members’ decisions and marked variance in release rates between provinces. Detainees have no automatic right of appeal to the federal court for decisions made at the Detention Reviews. Rather, detainees apply for leave for judicial review, which is rarely granted.

Detainees have limited access to legal aid and bail program. For example, the only free clinic they can access is Know Your Rights trainings by the Osgoode Hall legal clinic and very rarely representation by the Refugee Law Office. In addition, both legal aid and the Toronto Bail Program do not attend at many of the provincial jails on a regular basis.

4. Deaths in immigration detention:
The Canada Border Services Agency has failed to learn from its mistakes causing multiple deaths in immigration detention. As a result, at least 11 people have died in immigration detention custody since 2000. See Global News report: ‘Canada’s Unwanted: Non-citizens paid to leave, jailed without charge, die in secret‘.

5. Ontario prison staff lack training:
Immigration detention is administrative hold pending release or deportation. No charges have been placed against detainees, and no trial is forthcoming. This is starkly different from the stated purpose of Ontario provincial facilities which is to rehabilitate prisoners, or to hold prisoners until trial. As such, staff are unequipped to deal with immigration detention.

6. Federal anti-immigrant changes are responsible for making people undocumented:
Under the current federal government, the number of refugee claims has decreased by 50 per cent and the number of accepted refugees has dropped by 25 per cent. The number of family-class immigrants dropped by 10,000 in the first four years the Conservative Party of Canada formed government. The Conservative government has instituted a quota of 5,000 applications (note, not acceptances) on the sponsorship of parents and grandparents. The Conservatives have also enhanced their power to revoke permanent residency and citizenship. These factors are cumulatively responsible for growing numbers of people forced to live without immigration status and thus face detentions and deportations.

7. Detainees in Provincial Jails Cannot Access Cultural or Spiritual Services:
They have even less access than the other detainees. And some of the immigration detainees have been in provincial facilities for 8 to 10 years.

8. Ontario has already begun this process:
On September 25th, 2014, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca formally cut his ministry’s ties with the Canada Border Services Agency. The suspension of operational relations with the federal agency followed MTO collaboration in the racial profiling of workers during CBSA raids. This is an example that now the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services must follow.

Your recent comments in the media about shifting immigration detainees in Ontario to a ‘GTA-area’ prison is cause for great concern. We understand that you’re intending to move immigration detainees to a range in Maplehurst Correctional Complex which was shut down due to mold. We are particularly concerned because conditions in Ontario detention facilities remain unknown following the denial of Red Cross entry into prisons in the province. We welcome your signing of an agreement with the Red Cross to finally grant them access for the first time since 2006, however a lack of a timeline for when the probe’s findings will become public is deeply concerning. The Red Cross must immediately be given access to all prisons, and their findings should be made public as soon as

Though Ontario has not released the specific information, according to our best estimates based on CBSA documents we have acquired, in 2013, Ontario carried out approximately 2,436 detentions for 75,000 days. In the same year, CBSA paid Ontario $21 million dollars for these detentions. This is a massive federal tax burden on individual families across the country which Ontario is profiting from.

Immigration enforcement is not a provincial issue so why are you cooperating with policies that deny people status and supporting Harper’s agenda? The provincial government has no obligation to hold immigration detainees for the federal government. Your ministry and Ontario should take a stand and refuse to hold people in indefinite maximum security in provincial prisons.

Member organizations of the End Immigration Detention Network been organizing around this issue for over a decade and have received the backing of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, who have called for an end to indefinite detention in Canada. We know that prisons should never be used to enforce immigration laws. As you consider your course of action, we want to remind you that this system does not need federal government tweaking in the form of GPS units or more minimum security jails. It needs a total transformation that prioritizes community support and immigration status regularization. Ontario should be releasing immigration detainees from prisons such as the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay and not transferring them to Maplehurst.

Update: Immigration Detainees take part in prison walk-out

We can now confirm that last Monday immigration detainees as well as general population inmates at the Central East Correctional Center, in Lindsay ON took direct action and collectively refused to go back into their cells when they were instructed to by prison guards. Inmates were protesting the fact that guard shortages over the summer have led to continuous lockdowns; sometimes spanning for days on end. Inmates argue that these conditions are inhumane and that guard shortages should not affect their quality of life while in jail. The protest lasted several hours and was ended after a prison negotiator was brought in to get inmates to go back into  their cells. However, the majority of the inmates were left frustrated and unsatisfied as the prison negotiator did not speak to individuals demanding an end to lockdowns and chose to speak to a small number of inmates who changed the focus and were asking for items to be brought into the jail. Following the protest, some ranges were once again put on lockdown for two days. Inmates including immigration detainees are talking of hosting another walk-out if conditions do not change in the near future.

ADVISORY: United Nations body issues damning opinion against Canadian immigration detention

Toronto — The United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention has issued a damning opinion regarding Canadian immigration detention in the case of Mr Michael Mvogo. This is the first opinion the UN body has rendered in a case involving Canada since 1994 which is as far back as records are available for. The Opinion has great bearing on all immigration detentions cases in Canada. It responds to many of the Government’s arguments that justify immigration detention (of any length), and criticizes the judicial processes that uphold immigration detention. Media are invited to attend.

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/

This Sunday: Mass protest in Ottawa against immigration detention. Here’s why.

by Mac Scott

detentionboycottMy favourite activity many mornings is bringing my nine-year-old to school. He talks on and on mainly about minecraft and dungeons and dragons, holds my hand and gives me a big hug when we get to his school.

Hundreds of mothers, fathers and other caregivers being held behind bars by Canada Border Services Agency do not get to drop off their children in the morning, and Canada uses a broken and defective detention review system to justify this tragedy.

Most western nations have a “presumptive period” — a period a person can be held to effect removal after which they usually must be released if removal has not been effected. The U.S. has a 90 day period, the European Union has a six month period and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions has said every country should have a presumptive period.

Canada has no such period. Canada is a rogue nation.

The Courts created a loophole, justifying the lack of a presumptive period by finding that having a robust and regular review of detention means that despite the lack of a presumptive period, immigration detention in Canada cannot be considered indefinite and hence in abrogation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So, in Canada, immigration detentions are reviewed every month — called a “detention review.” This means that the detainee’s release depends on a decision by a single individual.

Robust?

In the last week, the End Immigration Detention Network released a startling and revealing report throwing extreme doubt on the robust nature of these detention reviews. This report, based on Access to Information Requests and reviewed by two professors and two legal professionals, showed that in 2013, immigration detainees spent 504 years in detention in total, including the detention of 196-807 children each year.

This was at a cost of $120-207 a day if the person was held in a provincial facility. Despite the existence of three dedicated minimum security immigration facilities, people are often held in maximum security provincial and federal facilities.

However, the most startling figures revealed were with regards to the Detention Reviews themselves.

Presided over by civil servants called Board Members, formed under an administrative tribunal (the Immigration Division of the Immigration Refugee Board), it turns out these hearings not only have an extremely low release rate, but that the outcomes are extremely arbitrary:

  • Release rates by Board Members varies from five to 38 per cent
  • Release rates by area, vary as well: the national average is 15 per cent, the Eastern Region (all of Quebec, Nunavut and the east coast plus Kingston and Ottawa) has a release rate of 24 per cent, the Western region (Manitoba to B.C., along with the Northwest Territories and the Yukon) has a release rate of 27 per cent, and the Central Region (Ontario excluding Kingston and Ottawa) has a release rate of 9 per cent
  • Release rates drop dramatically depending on how long the person has been held. Falling to almost zero after six months (almost all of whom are held in the Central region)

So basically, being released is entirely dependent on where you are being held, who happens to preside over your hearing that morning and how long you have been held.

What’s going on with the system? Continue reading

REPORT: The Truth about Immigration Detention in Canada Revealed

In 2013, over 8,000 people spent 183,928 days in prison, equal to 504 years in total. That includes children. Without trial or charge. At a cost of $45 million dollars. What’s going on?

See www.truthaboutdetention.com for stunning infographics and some answers.

The exposé by End Immigration Detention Network shows disturbing discrepancies between different decision makers responsible for releasing migrants. At the same time, the report highlights suspicious ‘consistencies’ between decision makers and suggests political interference in decision-making is to blame.

Titled ‘Indefinite, arbitrary and unfair: The truth about immigration detention in Canada’, analyzes federal immigration detention and release trends obtained through dozens of Privacy Act requests over the last year.

The report is being launched as over 100 detainees in three maximum-security prisons in Ontario boycott their detention reviews.

Nearly 80,000 immigrants have been detained under the current federal government. Over a third of the immigrants detained at any time are held in one of 142 mostly maximum-security prisons across Canada. Canada is one of the few countries in the “west” that does not have a limit on detention pending deportation.

TAKE ACTION

*** Share the report widely: http://www.truthaboutdetention.com ***

*** Come to Ottawa to Immigration control headquarters:
https://endimmigrationdetention.com/2014/05/23/ottawa-convergence-to-end-immigration-detention/

Demands by detainees

1 – Release all migrant detainees who have been held for longer than 90 days.

2 – End arbitrary and indefinite detention: Implement a 90-day limit on detentions pending deportation. If removal cannot happen within 90 days, immigration detainees must be released.

3 – No maximum security holds: Immigration detainees should not be held in maximum security provincial jails; must have access to basic services and be close to family members.

4 – Overhaul the adjudication process: Give migrants fair and full access to legal aid, bail programs and pro bono representation.