By TOM GODFREY
Lawyers for two long-term immigration detainees – including a mother who gave birth and is raising her son behind bars – appeared in a Toronto court last week to try and have them set free.
Glory Anawa, 29, her 18-month-old Canadian-born son, Alpha Ochigbo and Michael Mvogo have been jailed for several years in Canada for immigration violations, according to groups that have been fighting for their release.
Lawyers for the two appeared at the Ontario Court of Appeals on Queen St. W., on May 6 to appeal an unsuccessful Ontario Superior Court proceeding launched last December seeking their release under the Habeas Corpus Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
No date has been set on whether the proceeding will be heard.
The appeals are being supported by the End Immigration Detention Network that has been instrumental in fighting the detentions.
Anawa, 29, from Cameroon, has been in detention for more than two years. Her son was born in detention. Mvogo has been detained for almost 10 years as the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) tries to deport them.
Network community organizer, Syed Hussan, said protests and hunger strikes by inmates have sparked very little changes to the status of the detainees.
“The Court’s refusal to assert jurisdiction allows this injustice to continue,” said Hussan.
“This is a political problem and requires a political solution.”
He said supporters of the imprisoned immigrants are calling for justice.
“It’s time for Canada to end immigration detention and for Ontario to stop supporting federal anti-immigrant laws,” said Hussan.
The Network wants 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.
Anawa’s lawyer, Swathi Sekhar, said her client and son are in limbo.
“CBSA is unable to gain documents for my client’s removal, yet it insists on jailing her and her baby for more than two years now,” said Sekhar. “There are untold numbers of migrants imprisoned in Canada indefinitely in a similar situation.”
She is calling for Anawa’s release and the establishment of a limit on indefinite detention.
Mvogo’s lawyer, Jean Vecina, called Canada a rogue state that refuses to follow international law.
“Mr. Mvogo must be released as per the United Nations opinion issued in his case,” Vecina said in a statement. “This legal challenge opens the door to justice for migrants and gives Mr. Mvogo a real chance of freedom.”
The CBSA has said that it is unable to obtain travel documents from the home countries of Mvogo and Anawa.
The two will remain in detention awaiting a decision on their cases.
Of the 7,373 immigrants jailed in Canada in 2013, some 4,574, or about 62 per cent, were held in Ontario prisons.
About 200 migrants went on a protest-strike in September 2013 at the maximum security Lindsay Correctional Institution to protest their lengthy detentions.