Canada’s immigration detention system is under fire after a United Nations human rights monitoring body released its first opinion stating “detention should be the last resort and permissible only for the shortest period of time.”
This opinion was in response to demands that Canada immediately free Michael Mvogo, a man who has been imprisoned in Ontario for eight years because of immigration violations. The Toronto Star reports that officials cannot determine who Mvogo is, where he comes from or how to deport him.
The UN stated in their opinion that Canada’s official policy of indefinite incarnation is a human rights violation and urged Canada to adopt the 90-day limit on detentions that is common among numerous other nations. Activist group Ending Immigration Detention states “Now, the UN has spoken out in support. The tide on immigration detention is turning” and continues to push to change Canada’s immigration detention policy.
However, the Canadian government is not bound to the opinion released by the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Working Group on Arbitrary detentions.
In a statement to the public, Macdonald Scott, Mvogo’s legal counsel, said that the decision by the UN should convince Canada to overhaul its immigration detention system. He stated, “Canada should pay heed to this ruling, release Mr. Mvogo and compensate him, as well as release any immigrants detained for more than 90 days. That should be followed by a thorough overhaul of the detention review process and an end to maximum security incarceration of migrants.”
Mvogo is one of the many immigrants being held in the Central East Correctional centre in Lindsay, Ontario. At the centre, in Sept. 2013, Mvogo and 191 other immigrants participated in a hunger strike for 65 days demanding their removal or release.
“This UN opinion is another nail in the coffin on any claim to integrity in the immigration detention system. Immigration detention is unjust jail without trial or charge — it must end,” Syed Hussan, a campaigner with End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN) said in a statement to the public.
A 2014 report by EIDN said that in 2013 between 7,373 and 9,932 immigrants spent a total of about 504 years in prison. The report noted that Canada is the only Western country without a limit on immigration detention and stated that recently there were at least 146 migrants in jail for over six months.
Miriam Katawazi is a fourth-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton University and rabble’s news intern. She has a strong passion for human rights and social justice in Canada and across the world. Her writing focuses on health, labour, education and human rights beats.