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Canada’s black hole: immigration detention

Hundreds of Canadian children held in immigration detention, report shows

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More than 200 Canadian children have been held in immigration detention in recent years, according to a new report from the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program.

Between 2011 and 2015, 241 Canadian children were held at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre alone, according to the report. Normally Canadian citizens cannot be subject to detention under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These children became de facto detainees because they were in the care of a parent who was detained and is a foreign national or permanent resident. The children cannot, however, have their own detention review hearings. As a result they become “legally invisible,” according to the report.

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“It’s a clear violation of international law for these kids not to have their best interests taken into account as a primary consideration,” said Hanna Gros, the report’s author and a senior fellow at the University of Toronto. “It’s quite shocking that Canadian citizens are treated this way.”

The IHRP report, titled Invisible Citizens, was a follow-up to work released last year on detainees of all nationalities, which found that on average 242 children were held in immigration detention from 2010 to 2014. But that report didn’t include figures on those held who were actually Canadian.

At least 48 Canadian children on average were held in detention in Toronto alone from 2011 to 2015. There are other detention facilities in Canada, notably in Vancouver (a short-term facility) and Laval, Quebec, but they did not report detailed numbers.

The vast majority – 85 per cent – were under six years of age, and nearly two-thirds were two years or under, the report says. Lengthy stays in detention were not uncommon, as more than 35 per cent spent between a week and a month in detention, and more than 31 per cent spent more than a month locked up.

Several mothers who were detained with their Canadian children gave interviews to the researchers. They described the impact that detention had on their kids, ranging from changes in appetite and sleep to mental distress. Some described the mutual anguish of being separated when they were detained and a child was left with caregivers on the outside.

“Obviously detention has a huge impact on their mental well-being,” Ms. Gros said. “No child should experience these traumatic things.”

Over the last year, the Canada Border Services Agency has made a number of changes to find alternatives to detention. As a result the number of detainees has declined. Data for April to December, 2016, show that just 12 Canadian children were detained in Toronto, and for an average of only 4.5 days.

The IHRP is calling on the CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board to do more to avoid detaining mothers and children, and to avoid separating families. The report says that in cases where unconditional release is not appropriate, families should be monitored with community-based programs.

Until recently, the interests of a child were not supposed to factor into a parent’s detention hearing, the report states. But a 2016 case set a precedent for allowing adjudicators to take those concerns into account.

“The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration,” Ms. Gros said. “Canada has a real opportunity to become a world leader when it comes to policing borders in a humane way.”

SOURCE.
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OP: The text below is from june 17th, 2015 and gives a bit of an idea of what immigration detention involves.
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Immigration Detention: Canada's Black Hole

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For a good part of the past year I received almost weekly phone calls from Abdi.   He told me he was stateless and had spent most of his childhood in a refugee camp.  He and his family arrived in Canada with as Convention Refugees.  Twenty two years later he found himself in a maximum-security Provincial jail on an immigration hold, while the Canadian government tried to find a way to remove him to his country of birth. His birth however had never been registered, and his birth country did not recognize him as a citizen.

Abdi told me after arriving in Canada he developed some addictions and did stupid things that he was not proud of.  As a result of his activities related to his addictions, he was convicted and sentenced to an 8 month prison term. Upon completion of his prison sentence he remained in detention on an immigration hold. In spite of being stateless, when Abdi first called me, he had been on an immigration hold for more than two years as Canadian authorities attempted to remove him to his country of birth.  It was impossible to remove him to his birth country as there was no record that he had been born there.  Abdi told me he was ‘going crazy in here.’  After more than two years on an immigration hold he had lost faith in Canadian ‘justice.’  In his view the law and the courts had let him down and he had nowhere to turn to help.

Abdi spoke of despair and anxiety due to his immigration status.  His detention seemed to be indefinite and he had no idea when or if he would ever be released. While there were monthly reviews of his detention, he often did not have a lawyer to represent him, and in spite of being stateless there were ongoing efforts to remove him from Canada.  I accepted his collect calls from the detention centre; made sure he had access to a lawyer and tried to provide some support and hope.

A new report by the International Human Rights Program from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, We Have No Rights, provides an alarming overview of the scope of Immigration detention in Canada which affects thousands of non-citizens every year – including those with mental health issues, torture victims, pregnant women, and children.   The report focuses on the mental health concerns of migrants who are held in provincial jails and finds that immigration detention has a catastrophic impact on mental health – making existing mental health issues worse, and creating new ones.

The report finds there are shocking gaps in the rule of law related to immigration detention and makes important recommendations including the need for an independent body/ombudsperson who should be responsible for overseeing and investigating the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), and to whom immigration detainees like Abdi can turn to in order to register complaints and request investigations.  The report also recommends that Canada create a rule which favours release after 90 days of detention for individuals on an immigration hold. This is an important recommendation.  While Abdi had been held for ONLY two years, the report cites a case of an immigration detainee in Canada who has been held for 8 years!  Throughout this time little has been done to seriously explore less expensive and less restrictive alternatives to detention.

The report concludes that the detention of migrants with mental health issues in provincial jails violates the human rights of some of the most vulnerable people in Canadian society.  Immigration detention is often arbitrary, and in some cases amounts to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment which provides no effective remedy for those detained.
This report gives a voice to people like Abdi and the thousands of others detained in Canada for immigration purposes who find themselves in something approaching a legal “black hole”.  Abdi doesn’t need a report to tell him that his detention was unjust, and he can only hope that Canadian authorities will adhere to their international human rights obligations and put an end to the indefinite and arbitrary detention of non-citizens in Canada.

SOURCE is Amnesty.

Additional links:
-Canadian children 'locked up' in immigration detention centres, report says.
-Canada's Border Services Agency on immigration detention (i.e. this is a governmental agency).
-Here is a link to the full report mentioned in the first article: 'Invisible Citizens. Canadian Children in Immigration Detention' (i.e. the report is by the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto, Canada).
-Immigration detention. No life for a child. (At Amnesty.ca)
-Children Stuck Behind Bars in Canada. Country’s Immigration Detention System Detains Entire Families Unnecessarily. (At Human Rights Watch)
-Federal government reviewing immigration detention process after string of deaths. Canada Border Services Agency says policy in place for vulnerable detainees.
-Immigration detainees on hunger strike to protest solitary, lockdowns. (Another link on this story is here.)
-UN alarmed by Canada's immigration detention. A UN human rights report raises alarm over Canada's lengthy immigration detention and lack of medical support for inmates.
-Activism: (1)
The Council for Canadians on this issue, (2) No one is illegal campaign and their specific campaign on this issue endimmigrationdetention.com.

OP: Not exactly proud of my country right now…

Source: ONTD_Political

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