Step in on Immigration Detention
Lawyers, Activists Urge Ontario Courts
By A Correspondent
An innovative legal challenge is trying to force the Federal government to justify imprisonment of immigrants in a provincial court for the first time. The End Immigration Detention Network and lawyers for two long-term immigration detainees askied the Ontario Court of Appeals on Thursday, March 26th, 2015 to step in on endless immigration detention.
Lawyers for Ms Glory Anawa, a 29 year old mother, Alpha Ochigbo, her 18 month old Canadian born baby (imprisoned in immigration jail since birth) and Mr Michael Mvogo who has been jailed for 9 years in Canada appeared before the Ontario Superior Court on December 15, 2014 (Glory’s 29th birthday) seeking their release under the Habeas Corpus Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This special application requires the Ontario Court first determine if it has jurisdiction over immigration detentions before proceeding to hear the merits of the case. Earlier this month, the Ontario Court declined to assert jurisdiction. Lawyers for Ms Anawa and Mr Mvogo are now filing an appeal.
“A year ago, nearly 200 migrants went on hunger strike to protest immigration jails that tear them away from their families and community. Six months ago, we proved without a shadow of doubt that the legal system that oversees immigration detention has failed to stop cruel and indefinite detentions. Yet nothing has changed,” explains Syed Hussan, community organizer with the End Immigration Detention Network.
“The Court’s refusal to assert jurisdiction allows this injustice to continue, but we never expected a legal resolution. This is a political problem and requires a political solution. Imprisoned immigrants and their supporters are demanding immediate justice. Its time for Canada to end immigration detention, and for Ontario to stop supporting federal anti-immigrant laws.”
Of the 7,373 immigrants jailed in Canada in 2013, 4,574 (62%) were held in Ontario, many of them in provincial prisons. Since September 2013, nearly 200 migrants have been on a protest-strike in a maximum security prison in Lindsay, ON. Detainees have gone on hunger strikes and fasts, refused to attend their detention hearings and organized against lock-downs. Formed to support these detainees, the End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN) is organizing for an end to immigration detention, and in the meantime is calling for a 90-day limit on detentions pending deportation, an overhaul of the detention review process and an end to the jailing of migrants in maximum security jails.
"I've been robbed of my life. Alpha and I just live every day, one day at a time,” said Glory Anawa from the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre. “I don't know how my baby will react on the outside, this is the only place he knows. He sees security guards everywhere, searching people. I don't know what it is doing to him. I just want this nightmare to be over. No one deserves to be locked up like us."
Swathi Sekhar, Counsel for Glory Anawa added, “CBSA is unable to gain documents for my client’s removal, yet it insists on jailing her and her 16 month old baby for more than 2 years now. There are untold numbers of migrants imprisoned in Canada indefinitely in a similar situation. We are calling for Ms Anawa’s release and the establishment of a limit on indefinite detention. Allowing this appeal to go forward is in the public’s interest.”
Jean Vecina, lawyer for Mr Mvogo adds, “Canada is a rogue state which refuses to follow international law. Mr Mvogo must be released as per the United Nations opinion issued in his case. This legal challenge opens the door to justice to migrants and gives Mr Mvogo a real chance at freedom. We expect further such challenges in provincial courts across the country, and hope that legislative change follows swiftly after.”
- 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).
** Is not a provincial matter
** Is imprisonment without an end in sight
** Lacks due process
** Separates families