Sunday, June 21, 2015

University of Toronto Law Faculty Report on Detention of Migrants With Mental Health Issues

Last week, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law's International Human Rights Program released a report entitled We Have No Rights: Arbitrary Imprisonment and Cruel Treatment of Migrants with Mental Health Issues in Canada.

According to the report, many refugee claimants and asylum seekers with mental health issues are locked up in detention in Canada. The government argues that these migrants can get better health care in jail, but that idea is challenged in the report.

According to the press release:
"There is nothing in the law, for example, that defines which detainees can or should be transferred to jails. And once they are in jail, it's not at all clear which authority retains responsibility over them—the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or provincial correctional officials. Because Canada has no mandated legal limit on the length of time an immigration detainee can be held, some are left languishing behind bars for months and years with no clear end in sight. This situation leaves them with fewer rights than convicted criminals. It also puts Canada in a very special position, as one of the only standard-setting countries that does not impose either a legally mandated limit on migrant detention or a soft limit that's been determined by the courts (...)"

"The upswing in migrant detention is something relatively new for Canada, whose reputation up until about a decade ago was one of welcome and compassion for refugee claimants and asylum seekers arriving at its borders. 'Canada was seen as one of the better countries up until very recently,' says Stephanie J. Silverman, PhD, a course coordinator at the U of T Centre for Ethics who has studied and written extensively about detention in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. 'Release was always preferable to detention. It really was kept as a last resort, which is how it must be if you're going to follow international law and human rights standards'. "

"Things started to change, she says, with an increased emphasis on law and order. Canada adopted changes to its Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, accompanied by a new list of new regulations. Irregular arrivals from certain countries could be subject to mandatory detention, and authority over the CBSA had already been transferred from Citizenship and Immigration to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Border agents became first and foremost officers of law enforcement tasked with keeping perceived danger out, rather than facilitating the entry of newcomers into Canada (...)"

"According to Silverman's research, the CBSA claims it releases about three quarters of detainees after 48 hours and that 90-95 per cent of asylum applicants are released into the community. Nonetheless, according to the IHRP report, in 2013 the CBSA detained more than 7300 migrants. Thirty per cent were held in jails, many mixed in among the criminal population. They wear prison-issued jumpsuits. They can be subject to lockdowns and periods of solitary confinement. Many don't speak English and have no easy access to interpreters or legal counsel. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:31 pm


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