Title

"I didn't feel like a human in there" Immigration detention in Canada and its impact on mental health

Author Information

HRW

Date of Publication

2021 12:00 AM

Security Theme

Human Rights

Keywords

protection of life for all individuals, proper prison conditions, fair treatment from law enforcement, right to liberty and security, right to asylum, access to healthcare, fair treatment, fair access to public resources, seperation of families

Description

Despite its reputation as a refugee-welcoming and multicultural country, Canada incarcerates thousands of people on immigration-related grounds every year, including people who are fleeing persecution, those seeking employment and a better life, and people who have lived in Canada since childhood. Immigration detainees are held for noncriminal purposes but endure some of the most restrictive conditions of confinement in the country, including maximum security jails and solitary confinement, with no set release date. Figures from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reveal that the number of immigration detainees incarcerated in Canada has increased every fiscal year between 2016-17 and 2019-20, peaking in fiscal year 2019-20 with a total of 8,825 people in immigration detention. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Canadian authorities have released immigration detainees at unprecedented rates, providing clear evidence that there are viable alternatives to depriving people of their liberty for indeterminate periods of time. For many of those who remained incarcerated, conditions of detention became harsher, with far more frequent lockdowns and limited access to phones and showers. During the first year of the pandemic, immigration detainees went on hunger strike three times at the Montreal-area immigration holding center.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

"I didn't feel like a human in there" Immigration detention in Canada and its impact on mental health

Despite its reputation as a refugee-welcoming and multicultural country, Canada incarcerates thousands of people on immigration-related grounds every year, including people who are fleeing persecution, those seeking employment and a better life, and people who have lived in Canada since childhood. Immigration detainees are held for noncriminal purposes but endure some of the most restrictive conditions of confinement in the country, including maximum security jails and solitary confinement, with no set release date. Figures from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reveal that the number of immigration detainees incarcerated in Canada has increased every fiscal year between 2016-17 and 2019-20, peaking in fiscal year 2019-20 with a total of 8,825 people in immigration detention. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Canadian authorities have released immigration detainees at unprecedented rates, providing clear evidence that there are viable alternatives to depriving people of their liberty for indeterminate periods of time. For many of those who remained incarcerated, conditions of detention became harsher, with far more frequent lockdowns and limited access to phones and showers. During the first year of the pandemic, immigration detainees went on hunger strike three times at the Montreal-area immigration holding center.