News | Immigration detainees continue resistance

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called to take action

Detainees continue protesting for better prison conditions at Ontario’s Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay, Ontario after over six weeks of strike action. The strike began September 17, when prisoners refused to return to their cells. Since then, they have taken up a hunger strike, among other tactics.

“At least three or four [detainees] are still on hunger strike,” Syed Hussan, a member of No One Is Illegal Toronto, told The Daily. “[These detainees] are locked in segregation. They’re denied showers, et cetera, simply for speaking out.”

The detainees’ demands include better access to medical care, social services, food, legal aid, and more consistent phone calls, all of which have been limited since the detainees were moved from a federal prison in the Greater Toronto Area to the CECC.

One detainee, Michael Mvogo, is taking matters further. According to a press release from No One is Illegal Toronto, Mvogo has reached out to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to petition for his release.

Mvogo’s case challenges his detainment as a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“I’ve spent nearly a decade in jail and this suffering does not look like its going to end. The Federal Court won’t hear my case. I’ve been forced to go on hunger strike, and to approach the United Nations because the Canadian immigration system is just broken. Canada should either remove immigrants like me within 90 days, or release me. Jailing people endlessly should not be an option.”

“Mr. Mvogo has been detained basically because Canada has no bar,” said Hussan, referring to Canada’s indefinite limit as to the length of migrant detentions.

Mvogo has been held in detention for seven years, and according to No One is Illegal Toronto, has been denied a hearing by the Federal Court of Canada. Originally from Cameroon, Mvogo cannot be deported without travel documents, which cannot be obtained. However, he is far from the only one. Hundreds of migrants are currently facing similar arbitrary detention.

“The province is saying they’re just holding [the detainees] for the federal government, but they’re also being paid by the federal government to hold them,” said Hussan, referring to prisoners at the CECC.

Mvogo wants Canada to establish a ‘presumptive’ period for detainees. “Mvogo hopes [for the United Nations] to instruct Canada to release him. If that happens, it would apply to all long-term detainees,” Syed said.

“I’ve spent nearly a decade in jail and this suffering does not look like its going to end,” Mvogo told endimmigration.com.  “The Federal Court won’t hear my case. I’ve been forced to go on hunger strike, and to approach the United Nations because the Canadian immigration system is just broken. Canada should either remove immigrants like me within 90 days, or release me. Jailing people endlessly should not be an option.”

“We hope that the Canadian government stops breaking international law [and] legal practice,” said Hussan. “We believe people should not be detained on immigration grounds at all.”


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