Canada Fills Immigration Detention Facilities Again After Drop During Pandemic, Report Says

© AFP 2023 / Geoff RobinsAn RCMP officer checks the documents of two women from Sudan after they illegally crossed the Canada-US border. (File)
An RCMP officer checks the documents of two women from Sudan after they illegally crossed the Canada-US border. (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.04.2022
Unlike Canada, the US and some EU countries have a limited detention period of six months, and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called on Canadian authorities to suspend indefinite immigration detention. According to lawyers, the increased detentions also increase the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Canada has steadily increased the number of detained immigrants without charge after detention facilities saw their numbers fall during the pandemic, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing obtained data.
As of March 1, there have been 206 detained non-citizens, which is 28 percent more compared to the same date last year. While authorities say the overall number of foreign arrivals is up, advocacy groups and lawyers say that some detainees came to Canada years ago.
The immigration detainees have not been accused of committing any criminal offense and 68 percent of them are being held because the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) “fears they are ‘unlikely to appear’ at an immigration hearing.”
The analyzed data showed that the number of immigration detainees in the country “dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.”
People use a ladder to scale the border fence at the US/Mexico border in Tecate, Mexico, Thursday, April 21, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.04.2022
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Meanwhile, the temporary decrease hasn’t resulted in a surge of non-appearances in immigration hearings, the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data. Non-appearances fell from 5.9 percent in 2019 to 5.5 percent in 2021.
Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said that the pandemic showed that there is no need to hold so many immigrants.

"We didn't see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” he said.

Earlier in April, representatives of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a legal memorandum that the practice of holding non-citizens in provincial jails “is inconsistent with international human rights standards, and jail conditions potentially breach federal-provincial immigration detention contracts.”
While these contracts obligate local authorities to provide “just and humane” conditions to immigration detainees in provincial prisons and to avoid co-mingling them with sentenced criminals, the treatment in these facilities was said to be abusive and punitive, and should not be used for immigration detention.
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