By TOM GODFREY
A Cameroon mother of two, whose 16-month-old son was born in jail, are among some 145 migrants being held on immigration holds who should be freed, their family members and protesters say.
Glory Anawa, 29, has been detained at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre since February 2013 and her son Alpha, a Canadian citizen, was born at the Rexdale Blvd. facility and has never lived outside.
Anawa arrived in Canada using a false passport and filed a refugee claim alleging she feared a threat of female genital mutilation.
Immigration officials didn’t believe her story and have not been able to deport her because Cameroon officials have refused to issue her travel documents.
Anawa, who has had a difficult life, also has a daughter who was born while she was in immigration custody in Britain, before she arrived in Canada. The daughter was left behind.
“I don’t even have words to express how I feel,” she told demonstrators. “It makes me speechless. I’ve been robbed of my life.”
Muriam Salman of the End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN), said Anawa has suffered an ordeal and it’s about time that she and Alpha were released.
“Glory has been in detention for two years now,” Salman told Share. “Alpha has not seen a single day of freedom and has never been outside the centre.”
Dozens of family members of the detained, along with members of EIDN and Youth 4 Global Change, protested outside the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay on Family Day, last Monday, to bring awareness of the plight of the migrants.
“Horrific as Glory’s story is, it is not an exception,” said Salman. “Racialized and poor migrants are locked up in jails around the globe for the desire to move.”
Organizers said Alpha and other detainee kids are taught by a teacher inside the centre, which also has a play area for children.
There are about 146 migrants who have been jailed for more than six months since Canada cannot deport them for various reasons and will not release them. There are also about 200 children being detained as their parents await enforcement action.
Salman said more children are being detained than reported because kids who are Canadian citizens are not counted by officials. It is estimated that at least 11 people have died in immigration enforcement custody in the last decade.
Salman said many of the detainees, like Anawa, have been jailed for months or years without charges or a trial.
“The system should be fair for everyone and there should be family reunification,” she told Share. “Many families are being torn apart.”
Salman said the groups are calling for an end to maximum security detention in provincial jails for migrants; a limit of 90 days in which they can be detained pending deportation and an overhaul of the detention review process.
“Many families are living in limbo,” she said. “Families and loved ones are being separated for a very long time.”
EIDN official, Syed Hussain, said more than 10,000 people were deported from Canada last year, and many were returned to countries engaged in war or conflict.
“We know people are regularly deported to Iran, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries,” Hussain told Share. “These removals are happening all the time.”
He said more criminals are being deported for lesser crimes than before and they are being shipped out quicker.
The activists are also marking the one-year anniversary of the death of Lucia Jiminez Vega of Mexico, who was found hanging in a holding cell at Vancouver International Airport.
An inquest called for dedicated holding centers for immigrants and the creation of a civilian agency to investigate their deaths in custody.
Meanwhile, more than 3,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the halt of indefinite detentions of migrants in custody by immigration and the Canada Border Services Agency.