Family members, supporters condemn prison conditions of immigration detainees

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Photo: John Bonnar

Click here to see more photos from the action held in Toronto on Tuesday morning.

From the press release:

MEDIA ADVISORY Monday, October 7, 2013

Provincial Media Liaison: Macdonald Scott, 647 761 3860

Ontarians speak out in support of immigrant detainees on strike


Ontario — On October 8th, friends, family members and supporters across Ontario are speaking out against prison conditions and indefinite detention in support of nearly 200 immigration detainees who have been on strike in a maximum-security prison in Lindsay, ON since September 17th. Actions are happening across the province (details below).

“We have been here on hunger strike because what immigration has done is not right,” said Ayad Alshmmar from inside Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario, who has been in immigration detention for 5 years 8 months. He was diagnosed with cancer while in detention. “I tried to do hunger strike with my people but I could not do it, I felt sick without my medication. I went half a day. They know I have cancer, but they don’t care about it. They say whatever happened to you in jail, it has nothing to do with us. I said you guys put me in jail and I am sick. In this situation you have to do something. You have to release me to my freedom. They have a hospital treatment program in Toronto, which immigration could agree to put me in, not in jail, but they have refused.”

The detainees and their supporters are calling for an end to maximum security detention in provincial jails for migrants; a limit of 90 days that migrants can be held in detention pending deportation as per international law; full access to legal aid for detention reviews; and an overhaul of the adjudication appointment process for detention review. In addition, the strikers are calling for access to medical care, decent food, social workers, legal services, and international calls and an end to constant lockdowns. Well over 1000 people have signed a petition in support.

“Detainees have refused to enter their cells, banging on their cell doors, refused to attend what they consider sham detention reviews and some have been on hunger strike for the last 14 days demanding justice. At least one detainee is on dry hunger strike and at least six have been hospitalized,” says Mina Ramos who has been speaking to prisoners.

“Immigration detention tears apart families, separating us from our loved ones, explains LaToya Lettman, whose husband is in jail. “I call on Ministers Meilleur and Blaney to release these people and bring end to indefinite detention and maximum security detention for immigration detainees.” She adds, “My husband and the other detainees are being subjected to regular ‘weigh-ins’ and if they’ve lost weight they get put in segregation. The food being served is appalling, there are grave concerns over the water quality, with many people developing skin problems and the medication provided is sub-standard.”

“Migrants are jailed indefinitely in direct contravention to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights that demands that countries set a maximum period of time, called a presumptive period, that people can be detained pending removal,” explains immigration consultant Macdonald Scott, who has three clients on strike in Lindsay. “In the United States and United Kingdom that period is 90 days but Canada has no such limits relying instead on a broken review process every 30 days where almost no one gets released.”

“It costs Canada $239/day to hold a migrant in jail, for 200 people that’s over $17million a year,” says No One Is Illegal Toronto member Syed Hussan. “Yet these people are denied decent food, social support or even phone calls. This is an outrage that Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Corrections Minister Madeleine Meilleur must explain.”

For more information: and on twitter at #MigrantStrike

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