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Report questions 'justice' and 'fairness' of Canada's immigration system

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Indefinite. Arbitrary. And unfair.

That’s the conclusion of a new report released at a press conference in Toronto on Monday by an organization demanding an end to deportations and detentions and full immigration status for all migrants.

"Our research shows that the immigration detention system is systematically unfair," said Syed Hussan, a member of No One is Illegal -- Toronto and the report researcher and writer. 

"No practical processes exist through which this unfairness can be challenged. That’s a profound injustice. There is no reform or rehabilitation in immigration detention. It must end."

Indefinite, arbitrary and unfair: the truth about immigration detention was published by the End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN), a coalition of migrant detainees, family members, and allies that fights against immigration detention and demands justice and dignity for all migrants and prisoners.

"We believe in the freedom to move, freedom to return, and the freedom to stay for migrants everywhere," said the coalition.

EIDN was formed by members of No One Is Illegal -- Toronto and Fuerza-Puwersa Guelph to support 191 migrant detainees in Lindsay, Ontario that initiated protests against prison conditions and endless detentions in September 2013.

"Thousands of lives are wasting away inside prison cells," said Hussan. 

"Many are separated from their families and loved ones merely for being born elsewhere. Immigrants are being locked up in a 5-metre square cell for 20 hours a day, without charges or a trial in which they can clear their names, as is the case with those going through the criminal justice system."

Nearly 80,000 immigrants have been detained under the current federal government, nearly 10,000 in 2013. 

Over a third of the immigrants detained at any time are held in one of 142 mostly maximum-security prisons across Canada.

"The detention review process that is supposed to guarantee the fairness of all detentions appears to be entirely at the whims of an appointed board member, with devastating consequences on migrants and their families," said Hussan.

"Furthermore, this report shows clear warning signs about a detention system that is set to expand with the adoption of legislation such as Bill C-31, which includes mandatory detention of refugees."

Canada is one of the few countries in the "west" that does not have a limit on detentions pending deportation.

EIDN made four demands as part of the Campaign to End Indefinite Immigration Detention:

1. Release all migrant on detentions pending deportations who have been held for longer than 90 days. 
2. End arbitrary and indefinite detention: Implement a 90-day “presumptive period”. 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.


"The immigration detention system operates in the shadows," said Hussan. 

"Few people know about it. Our report reveals the truth and it’s not pretty. Migrants are being locked away for years, away from their families and friends, wasting away without an end in sight. We have to remember these detainees aren’t in jail for a crime; they are locked away because a Board Member believes they might not show up for future procedures."

"Is that enough of a reason to deprive someone of their liberty for up to a decade?"

Click here to learn more and read the full report.

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