How are migrants in detention in Canada treated?


The treatment of migrants in detention has recently been in the limelight because of the unhealthy conditions reported at the US border on the Mexican side. Here is an overview of the situation in Canada.

Sometimes in a detention center for migrants, sometimes in prison

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) may detain foreign nationals and permanent residents under certain conditions – including if they pose a risk to public safety or if they are likely to disappear into the wild – but must first consider all alternatives. The CBSA states that the physical and mental health and well-being of inmates are key considerations.

They can be placed in one of the agency's immigration detention centers in Laval, Toronto or Vancouver or in provincial detention facilities.

The CBSA center in Toronto can accommodate up to 195 people, while the Laval center can accommodate up to 109 people. According to the agency, the two centers separate men, women and families. They include outdoor recreational areas and visitor areas, as well as daily meals and access to medical services, games, televisions and telephones.

The third center is at Vancouver Airport and can accommodate up to 24 inmates for up to 48 hours. Men and women are held separately, while children can be accommodated with their mothers. The property has common rooms and offers access to games, televisions and telephones.

According to the CBSA, each migrant receives three meals and two snacks a day. Special dietary needs, such as food allergies or specialized diets, are taken into consideration.

The agency says it relies, however, on provincial detention facilities for high-risk migrants, such as those with a violent criminal history, but also for low-risk migrants in areas where there are no known high-risk migrants. none of his own facilities.

The CBSA says it tries to minimize the interactions between migrants and jailed criminals.

Thousands of migrants detained

The CBSA reports that 6,609 people were held at its centers in 2017-18, compared to 4,248 the year before.

Of these, 1831 were placed in prisons last year, compared to 971 in 2016-17.

Stephanie Silverman of the Thinking Forward Network, a migrant advocacy group, explains that inmate files are re-evaluated periodically: first within 48 hours of detention, then again after seven days and then every 30 days. days until their case is resolved.

"It can only be solved by release to the community, usually under certain conditions, or by deportation," says Silverman, who points out that there is no limit to how long a person is detained. .

"It can take 48 hours, as it can take three months or five years. "

According to CBSA figures, 3.8% of migrants detained in 2017-2018 had been in custody for more than 99 days, while 47.2% of them had been detained for 24 hours or less.

The CBSA estimates the cost of holding a migrant person at about $ 320 a day.

Limited facilities

Janet Dench, director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, believes that migrant detention centers offer adequate amounts of food and water, but have limited facilities.

"They are not allowed access to the Internet, which makes it very difficult for them to communicate with family members or others who could help them get the documents they need," she says. argue that their phone calls are also restricted.

The CBSA reports that migrants have access to local NGOs and lawyers to the extent possible. Detainees may also request at any time to meet with one of their agents.

The agency adds that its own detention centers provide medical, nursing, psychological and psychiatric care, but that special needs are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Migrants placed in provincial detention centers are subject to the same rules as prisoners. In case of confinement, it can be difficult for them to receive visitors, Ms. Dench illustrates.

"It is about people who have not been charged with any crime and yet are treated according to rules designed – and problematic in themselves – for people accused or convicted of a crime," he said. -she.

"It's completely unfair. "

The choice of parents

Canadian law states that what is in the best interests of the child must prevail in immigration detention centers. The CBSA explains that children are only a last resort.

The agency reports that 151 minors were detained in 2017-2018. Of these, 144 children were accompanied by their parent or guardian.

The decision is theoretically up to parents, but according to Hanna Gros, a lawyer specializing in immigration and refugee matters, the situation can be deadlocked for newcomers who have no relatives in Canada to trust. their child.

Leaving can be difficult

Another factor that can prolong detention: for a migrant to be deported, the country of arrival must accept to receive it, says Mrs. Silverman, of Thinking Forward Network

And if the person's identity can not be verified, she will have to demonstrate the evidence behind the bars – a sometimes complex task, says Silverman.

For migrants with a criminal record, the process may be even more difficult, as some States do not issue travel documents for their nationals who have been convicted of a crime abroad.

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