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Human Rights | Organizations urge Ottawa to end migrant incarceration



(Montreal) Some 40 human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are urging the Canadian government to put an end to the practice of immigration detention in provincial prisons.

The 40 organizations signed a letter sent Monday to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, and Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

They ask elected officials to follow the recommendation of the coroner’s inquest jury into the death of Abdurahman Hassan in order to prevent people detained for immigration reasons from being mistreated in provincial prisons and deaths reoccur.

Abdurahman Hassan, a 39-year-old man with serious mental health issues, died after being imprisoned for three years in an Ontario prison in 2015. The coroner’s inquest revealed shocking details about the conditions of detention, including isolation.

“The death of Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan has highlighted how racist and discriminatory immigration policies, insufficient support for people with mental illnesses and a lack of government transparency threaten the rights of refugees and migrants and sometimes their life. This murderous system must end,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada English Speaking Section, in a statement.

Amnesty International calls immigration detention a “deadly and discriminatory system” and says 17 asylum seekers and migrants have lost their lives since 2000.

The organizations said in their open letter that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has detained tens of thousands of migrants on what they say are “purely administrative” grounds.

These people are not charged with any crime, the signatories argue, and they end up in jail sometimes with the most restrictive prison conditions in this country like maximum security prisons and solitary confinement.

“Black and other racialized people appear to be detained for longer periods of time and are often held in provincial jails rather than immigration holding centers,” reads a statement from Amnesty International.

It is also argued that people with mental disorders “face disproportionate coercive treatment,” including solitary confinement.

In 2022, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Manitoba decided to end their immigration detention agreements with the CBSA.

When these decisions come into force, no one will be able to be incarcerated in the prisons of these four provinces on the sole basis of immigration.

Human rights organizations want the federal government to take their example and also end immigration detention across the country.

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