Five things to know about Canadian immigration detention centres

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Canadian immigration

The treatment of migrants has as of late been pushed into the spotlight as records rise of congestion and unsanitary conditions in American border detainment offices. Here’s a look at how Canada deals with immigration detainees.

The Canada Border Services Agency can detain foreign nationals and permanent residents under certain conditions — including if they pose security risks or are unlikely to appear for immigration proceedings — but must first consider all reasonable alternatives. The CBSA says the physical and mental health and well-being of detainees are key considerations.

A person might be kept at a CBSA immigration holding focus in Toronto, Laval, Que., or Vancouver. In other regions, people may be held in provincial jails.

The Toronto focus can hold up to 195 detainees, while the Laval one can house up to 109. The CBSA says both give separate accommodation to men, ladies, and families, have outside recreational regions, provide daily meals, access to games, televisions, and telephones, visitation areas and medical services.

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The Vancouver focus is at the city airport and can hold up to 24 detainees for as long as 48 hours. Men and women are held separately while children may be housed with their mothers. The facility has common rooms, access to games, televisions, and telephones.

The CBSA says everyone in its holding focuses get three meals and two snacks per day, and special dietary needs, such as food allergies or specialized diets, are catered to.

The agency says it relies on provincial correctional facilities to hold higher-risk detainees, for example, those with a savage criminal foundation, lower-risk detainees in areas that don’t have an immigration holding center, and those detained for more than 48 hours in the Vancouver area. It says it tries to minimize interaction between immigration and criminal detainees.

Thousands held

The CBSA says there were 6,609 individuals kept in holding centers in 2017-18, up from 4,248 every year sooner. There were 1,831 prisoners held in prisons a year ago, contrasted with 971 out of 2016-17.

Stephanie Silverman, who is with migrant advocacy group Thinking Forward Network, says detainees have their cases reviewed at certain intervals — the first within 48 hours of detention, again after seven days, and then every 30 days until their detention is resolved.

“It can just truly be settled through discharge into the network, more often than not on conditions, or through expulsion,” says Silverman, noting there’s no limit on how long a person can be held.

“It could be 48 hours before you get out, it could be three months, or it could be five years.”

In 2017-18, the CBSA announced 3.8 percent of detainees were held for over 99 days, while 47.2 percent were held for 24 hours or less. The rest were held somewhere close to 25-48 hours and 40-99 days.

The CBSA estimates it costs approximately $320 per day to detain someone.

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Limited amenities

Janet Dench, executive of the Canadian Council for Refugees, says those in immigration holding centers are afforded an adequate amount of food and water but have limited amenities.

“They’re not permitted to have web get to which makes it extremely hard for them to speak with family members or others that might almost certainly help them get the reports that they need,” she says, including that prisoners additionally have limited access to telephone calls.

The CBSA says it provides on-site access to NGOs and legal counsel at holding centres where possible, and notes that a detainee can ask to speak to a CBSA officer at any time, or ask to see legal counsel or an NGO rep.

The organization additionally says it has on-site medical, nursing, psychological and psychiatric care within CBSA-run facilities. Those with special needs are dealt with on a case-by-case, it says.

Detainees held in jails are liable to the same rules as inmates. If a jail goes into lockdown, detainees have to deal with the situation and it can be difficult for family and others to visit them, Dench says.

“We’re discussing individuals here who have not been blamed for any wrongdoing, but then they are treated by principles that are created and dangerous in themselves for individuals who are blamed or sentenced for wrongdoing,” she says. “(It’s) totally out of line.”

Canadian law states that the best advantages of the tyke must be seen in migration holding focuses. The CBSA says kids are confined uniquely if all else fails.

In 2017-18, the CBSA says there were 151 minors kept. Of those, 144 were joined by their parent or gatekeeper, and seven were unaccompanied.

In principle, parents largely decide whether or not their child remains with them in detention, but Hanna Gros, an immigration and refugee lawyer, says the situation can be a “catch-22.”

“This is extremely a bogus decision,” she said. “When you’re new to a nation, you don’t really know anyone here, you don’t have family companions, contacts or network support. You have individuals here who are left with truly appalling decisions to make in these circumstances.”

If a child has Canadian citizenship and their parents are considered non-citizens when detained, the children themselves are not considered detainees if their parents keep their kids with them, Gros says.

If neither the state nor the person leaving the country can verify the detainee’s identity, the person has to prove it from inside a detention center, which can be hard, Silverman says.

For immigrants with a criminal record, the process can be even more difficult.

Certain states don’t issue travel documents for nationals who have been convicted of crimes in another country, which could also lengthen the detention process, Silverman says.

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