By TOM GODREY
Little Alpha Ochigbo is 19 months old and was born and raised in jail with his mom, Glory, who has been held for years on an immigration hold.
Alpha is an innocent Canadian-born toddler who has never played outside with friends or experienced freedom other kids take for granted.
It is appalling that here in Canada, with so many criminal offenders on the street, that a smart and energetic young boy can be held with hardened inmates for almost two years at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre in Rexdale.
Mind you, Alpha is here due to his mom, who is accused of breaking immigration laws.
But, this is Easter season, and a time for forgiving. This child should be treated with dignity and be released to live with family friends or social workers as his mother awaits her fate.
Glory is 30 years old and it is assumed she knows right from wrong. She has a lawyer, Swathi Sekhar, who has been trying unsuccessfully to have the family freed.
We, as a society, cannot continue to hold this child as a hostage, rather than releasing him so he can hopefully grow up as a normal kid.
A number of Toronto area groups feel the same way and have been lobbying immigration officials to have the family freed as they undergo immigration proceedings.
Glory, who is from the Cameroon, has been detained since February 2013 after arriving in Canada and filing a refugee claim, that was later withdrawn due to what she said was bad legal advice.
She gave birth to Alpha on August 2013 and all he knows is life behind bars. What kind of childhood is that?
The Cameroon government has made it clear that they will not issue Glory a travel document, and therefore she cannot be removed.
Sekhar was at the Ontario Court of Appeals last Thursday to seek their release, and that of Michael Mvogo, who has been held for more than nine years on an immigration hold.
Last month the Ontario court declined to assert jurisdiction on the case and lawyers for Anawa and Mvogo have filed an appeal. No date has been set for a hearing.
Sekhar said the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has not been able to obtain a travel document to remove the family from Canada.
“CBSA is unable to gain documents for my client’s removal,” she said. “It insists on jailing her and her baby for more than two years now.”
Mvogo, who is also from Cameroon, came to Canada as a visitor in 2005 and has been in detention since.
Last year, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights issued an opinion that Mvogo’s detention is illegal under international law.
But Alpha is a child and he should be running around with his mates. He is one of dozens of children of inmates who are taught by social workers at the Rexdale Blvd. facility.
“I’ve been robbed of my life. Alpha and I just live every day, one day at a time,” Gloria told supporters recently. “I don’t know how my baby will react on the outside, this is the only place he knows.”
She fears Alpha may have a hard time coping with the outside world.
“He sees security guards everywhere, searching people,” she said. “I just want this nightmare to be over. No one deserves to be locked up like us.”
The family is being helped by the End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN) that has been calling for a 90-day limit on detentions pending deportation, an overhaul of the detention review process and an end to the jailing of migrants in maximum security jails.
More than 4,500 of the 7,300 immigrants jailed in Canada are in Ontario prisons. Many, like Alpha and his mom, appear to have had the keys to their cell thrown away as they await justice.