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Bus loads of friends, families and supporters of immigration detainees endured the cold and gathered at Lindsay’s maximum-security jail from several cities across Ontario on December 14, with one demand: "End Indefinite Immigration Detention." Inside the prison, over 100 immigration detainees are on a hunger-fast protesting their incarceration in a maximum-security prison, and calling for their release.
"Jailing migrants for no crime but that of being born elsewhere is unjust, and indefensible!" says End Immigration Detention Network member Tings Chak, at the rally in Christie Pits Park before nearly 200 people boarded buses to Lindsay jail. "Jailing people indefinitely, with no end in sight is utterly inhumane."
About 10,000 people are jailed by immigration enforcement each year. Nearly 500 people are in detention on any given day, over a third of who are held in maximum-security prisons. Immigration Enforcement says that at least 60 people have been detained for over a year. Michael Mvogo has been held for seven years and a detainee who could be Mbuyisa Makhubu, has been detained for ten years.
"Harper is continuing to pass laws that strip away the status' of migrant families, while building bigger prisons where we can be locked away," added End Immigration Detention member Emelina Ramos outside Lindsay jail as family members sang and beat drums.
"We are here to insist that immigration detention in maximum-security prisons and indefinite immigration detention will no longer continue in silence," Ramos said to cheers as detainees could be seen waving from their cells.
On September 16, nearly 200 migrant detainees in Lindsay jail began protest actions that have captured widespread attention. Detainees have gone on hunger strike -- two of them for 65 days -- refused to enter their cells, boycotted their detention reviews and organized other political actions. In retaliation, immigration enforcement has deported some key strike organizers, moved others into prisons across Ontario and locked up hunger strikers in segregation. Yet, strike actions are continuing.
"The United States and the European Union have a limit on how long migrants can be jailed pending deportation," explains Karin Baqi, staff lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. "Canada is contravening recommendations made by the United Nations and jailing migrants indefinitely. We are demanding that a 90 day limit be imposed on detention pending deportation, that migrants not be held in max security jails and the adjudication process be overhauled."
"Canada Border Services Agency says that immigration detention of these migrants isn't about punishment but rather prevention, yet many migrants are held in immigration detention for periods that far exceed prison sentences for serious crimes," Baqi adds. "At the same time we need to question the notion of preventative detention itself."
"My son has been in jail for over 28 months and his life is just passing him by. Canada can’t deport him anywhere, they flew him to Tanzania, but he’s not from Tanzania and the Tanzanians sent him back. If he was out with his family, he could be putting his life together and getting his refugee status back, instead he’s just wasting away in a prison cell," says Mohamed Mjasiri. "We are calling on people across Canada to join us and insist that the Canadian government release our son and others indefinitely detained."
Mr. Mjasiri’s son Amin Mjasiri was on hunger strike for 65 days. For the last ten days of his strike, he was locked up in solitary confinement, denied phone calls and access to legal counsel, he was forced to go off his hunger strike.
Earlier this week Naomi Klein, John Greyson, Council of Canadians, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Law Union of Ontario, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Public Services Alliance of Canada - Ontario, Shit Harper Did and over 70 other leading labour, civil society, grassroots groups and individuals spoke out against indefinite detention, maximum security incarceration of migrants and an overhaul of the adjudication process. Full list of endorsers and demands.
"Harper's laws are 'tough on crime' but soft on facts. Canada lags shamefully behind other countries that limit detentions pending deportations, resulting in the jailing of migrants indefinitely. This is unjust and must stop. Immigrants shouldn't be held in maximum security prisons and they surely shouldn't be held indefinitely," said Brent Patterson, Political Director of the Council of Canadians.
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All photos courtesy of No One Is Illegal