Canada: man freed from indefinite immigration detention after six years

the guardian

 

The release of a stateless man who was held without charges by Canadian immigration authorities for six years has prompted renewed criticism of a system in which asylum seekers and other immigrants can be held indefinitely.

Ebrahim Toure was freed by the Canadian Border Services Agency from a facility in Toronto last month, putting an end to what is thought to have been one of the country’s longest immigration detentions.

Canada is among the few countries in the world to rely on an immigration detention system with no upper limits.

“It feels good to be out. I just want to go home and sit down,” Toure said in a statement. “It’s been six years since I’ve been outside – everything has changed.”

Toure originally claimed refugee status in Canada after arriving to the country on a fraudulent passport. Immigration officials arrested him in 2013, believing he was a flight risk prior to his hearings.

Although he was neither charged nor convicted of a crime in Canada, Toure was sent to a maximum security prison in Ontario for the first four and a half years of his detention.

Toure’s legal team protested, arguing there was no indication he was any risk to the public. But Canadian authorities classified Toure as a “high-risk” case because of a prior conviction in the United States for selling illegal DVDs.

“Given our review of the case at this time, the CBSA was comfortable releasing Mr Toure with conditions,” the agency told the Guardian in an emailed statement.

According to reporting by the Toronto Star, Toure had 69 separate hearings over the course of his detention, and like other immigrants who the government feared were a flight risk, was confined to prison-like space. There have been 17 recorded deaths in immigration detention since 2000, said the Toronto-based advocacy group, No One Is Illegal, in a media release.

It was only after a superior court judge in Ontario found his detention in a prison to be “cruel and unusual” that he was relocated to an immigration facility.

Much of the debate around Toure’s detention status focused on which country would receive him following deportation. While he believes he was born in the Gambia and spend much of his childhood in Guinea, neither country would issue him the required documents necessary for repatriation.

His eventual release prompted fresh calls for broader reforms to Canada’s immigration detention system.

Max Chaudhary, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, pointed out that adjudicators overseeing immigration hearings – which can extend a petitioner’s detention – do not need to have a legal background, despite having powers similar to that of a judge.

“There’s been a lot of concern expressed the system. I mean, it even led to an audit from within the government itself. This was indicative of a problem that was both palpable and noticeable,” he said.

The auditor’s report, issued over the summer, described a catalogue of systemic shortcomings, including inadequate legal representation for detainees, overreliance on the testimony of border officers and numerous factual errors used during critical decision making processes.

Critical assessments of the system have also come from human rights activists, including the Global Detention Project, which has raised concerns over the detention of mentally ill immigrants and children.

“The community is elated that Ebrahim is finally free,” MacDonald Scott, a member of Toure’s legal team, said in a statement. “However, his situation points out the futility of a system that detains people for immigration purposes regardless of whether that purpose will ever be achieved.”

Source :

the guardian

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