By TOM GODFREY
More than 100 long-term immigration detainees who have been behind bars for years because they could not be deported from Canada due to identity or other concerns should be released from prison, says a local advocacy group.
Members of the End Immigration Detention Network said some detainees have been incarcerated for seven years or longer as they await travel documents, or in some cases the inmates’ home countries may refuse to issue a visa for their return.
The group staged a noisy demonstration and 72-hour hunger strike last week outside the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., where they said many of the languishing detainees are housed.
“We are calling for their release and an end to indefinite detention and maximum security incarceration,” said group spokeswoman Tings Chak. “We believe that these people should not be detained in jails in the first place.”
Chak said some detainees have conducted hunger strikes, refused to attend detention hearings or enter their cell and participated in other political actions.
“Striking migrants have faced reprisals with many deported, locked up in segregation, moved to other prisons and denied access to legal counsel,” group members said.
The group is demanding the release of all detainees who have been held longer than 90 days and that they be given a 90-day period for removal or, if not, released.
“No more maximum security holds for inmates,” Chak said. “Immigration detainees should not be held in maximum security provincial jails and should have access to basic services.”
The Network is seeking an overhaul of the adjudication process and for migrants to be given full access to legal aid, bail programs and pro bono representation.
About 200 inmates – many held on immigration offences – have been relocated to Lindsay due to closure of the Toronto West Detention Centre, a move some claim will isolate the detainees and prevent them from receiving support.
Among the long-term detainees is Michel Mvogo, of theCameroon, who has been detained for seven years.
The group has filed a complaint to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a bid to obtain Mvogo’s release while the matter is being heard.
Mvogo, 46, arrived inCanadain 2005 with a suspected fraudulent American passport and was arrested a year later in aTorontoshelter by police for possession of a small amount of cocaine.
Immigration officials are unable to confirm his identity and attempts were made to deport him to theU.S.,HaitiandGuinea, where he had ties.
Mvogo finally told officials he came fromCameroonbut has not been issued a passport to return to that country.
They also highlight Victor Vinnettou, who has been behind bars for almost 10 years.
Vinnettou arrived inCanadain 1988 with fraudulent documents and has been on immigration hold since 2004. Vinnettou is believed to be South African anti-apartheid icon Mbuyisa Makhubu, which he would not confirm.
Vinnettou, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, has refused to reveal his real identity and is being detained in Lindsay.
Officials of the CBSA said delays for deportations can result when its officials have difficulty obtaining passports or visas to permit the person to enter another country or the person’s identity or citizenship cannot be confirmed