Groups call for review of immigration detention system in wake of deaths


Groups call for review of immigration detention system in wake of deaths

Recent death of two inmates spark more calls for Liberal government to review how immigration prisoners are detained

The federal government needs to take a good look at laws on immigration detentions, advocates have said.

In wake of recent deaths of two inmates at the Lindsay, Ont. detention centre, calls are mounting to end indefinite imprisonment of immigration detainees and to overhaul the judicial process for those waiting to be deported.

Dozens of activists from local civil society and immigration rights groups are expected to go to the Liberal Party headquarters in Toronto Friday, voicing their concerns and standing in solidarity with families affected by the situation.

“We don’t want people to be held in maximum security any longer,” said Macdonald Scott, spokesperson for End Immigration Detention Network, one of the leading groups.

The coalition was particularly alarmed by the death of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga, a Chilean man who died in custody on March 13. His death came days after another inmate, 64-year-old Burundian Melkioro Gahungu, committed suicide.

“We want to know why our son, our brother died,” reads part of a letter Astorga’s family sent to the Canadian government. “We want to know what the Canadian government is doing to make sure this does not happen to anyone else again.”

Inmates at the detention facility are on a hunger strike in an effort to draw more attention to their plight. They’ve also sent letters to MPs, copies of which will be delivered at the Friday rally.

Canada – unlike other countries such as the U.S. and members of the European Union – does not have a 90-day release period. It has a monthly review system, but advocates say it’s not working.

“If you can’t deport them, then you have to release them,” he said.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has petitioned the minister of community safety and correctional services, asking to reform immigration detention system – specifically to keep inmates in the least restrictive conditions, “given their non-criminal status,” said chief commissioner Renu Mandhane.

There are “concerns” over detainees’ access to proper medical care, especially mental health issues stemming from being held indefinitely.

“Some people spend months and years in that detention,” said Mandhane. “That’s a huge problem.”