By TOM GODFREY
One of Canada’s longest-held immigration detainees who is among hundreds of inmates being held on long-term holds appeared for a hearing last week.
Michael Mvogo has been detained for more than eight years as officials of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) try to determine his identity or where he is from.
Mvogo arrived in Canada in 2005 with a fake U.S. passport and only revealed what he now claims to be his true identity in 2011. The U.S., Haiti and Guinea have refused to accept him and denies any record of him. It is believed he is from Cameroon.
Dubbed the “Man With No Name”, he has been detained at the Central East Correctional Centre, where other immigrants have been held for years on holds without charges. That has led to a protest by inmates that started in September 2013.
An Opinion by a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions last June condemned Canada’s immigration detention policies and said detentions should be a final resort for the shortest length of time.
It said non co-operation from countries or origin or inability to identify a detainee is not grounds for detention.
Mvogo’s lawyer, MacDonald Scott, said a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled against Mvogo’s release last week. He has another hearing in a month.
Scott accused the Canadian government of ignoring the UN opinion that said Mvogo should be released and compensated for his time in prison.
“They are flagrantly disrespecting the UN and international law,” Scott told Share in an interview. “Canada is asking to re-do the process claiming they were not provided an opportunity to respond.”
Tings Chak, of the advocacy group, No One is Illegal, said Mvogo is demanding his release from indefinite imprisonment at the maximum security prison.
“He’s being held despite a UN Opinion calling for his release,” Chak told Share. “The UN also asked for repatriation for Mr. Mvogo for eight years of jail without trial or charge.”
Mvogo, in a statement released at the hearing, said he hasn’t given up hope.
“Canada Immigration should follow international law and respect human rights,” he wrote. “It’s been three months since the UN said I should be freed, but I am still behind bars.”
The Opinion impacts about 10,000 detainees jailed in Canada every year. The CBSA has not disclosed the number of detainees being held for longer than 90 days.
The UN said Mvogo’s detention is neither “necessary or proportionate” and found that migrant detainees in Canada do not have access to real judicial review processes.
His review last week placed a spotlight on the CBSA, which has recently come under scrutiny for its alleged role in deaths in immigration detention and lack of oversight.
The advocacy groups cited the names of migrants Lucia Jimenez, Joseph Dunn and Jan Szamko, who they claimed died in CBSA custody.
“The UN is calling Canada a rogue state that breaks international law,” they said in a release. “The Red Cross has criticized their detention conditions.”
Members of End Immigration Detention Network also accuse the Ontario government of working with the CBSA in the arrests during traffic stops of more than 30 migrants from Hispanic countries who were working illegally in the Toronto construction trades.
The men were removed from Canada in days with some leaving behind their families, including wives and young children.
They want Ontario to be declared a sanctuary province where undocumented workers can access government services. Toronto and Hamilton are already deemed sanctuary cities.
Members of the Network are demanding a 90-day limit on detentions pending deportation, an end of immigrants being held in maximum security imprisonment and an overhaul of the detention review and judicial system that governs detentions.