Loubani, Greyson demand release of immigrant detainees protesting at Ontario jail
Canadian activists Tarek Loubani and John Greyson visited a jail in Lindsay, Ont., on Monday to demand the release of nearly 200 immigrant detainees held under indefinite detainment.
Loubani and Greyson, who recently returned to Canada after a six-week detention in an Egyptian prison, visited Central East Correctional Centre to demand the release of immigrant prisoners who say they are being held unjustly.
The 191 migrants began their protest in September after they were relocated from the Toronto West Detention Centre to the facility in Lindsay.
At least one detainee at the facility has remained on a hunger strike for the past 48 days.
Outside the prison, Greyson told CTV Toronto that he felt compelled to meet the detainees and hear their stories.
“When we heard about these cases in Lindsay, we felt that it was important to meet them and share our solidarity with their experience,” Greyson said.
Loubani had hoped to meet with Amir Mjasiri, a 29-year-old Kenyan refugee who is currently observing a 48-day hunger strike at the prison.
Loubani said he was unable to meet with Mjasiri but that there are many other detainees at the prison with equally troubling stories.
“The detainee I was able to speak with has lung cancer. It’s currently being treated, but for a person with lung cancer to be in jail with no charges, with no possible end-date is absolutely unacceptable,” Loubani said.
“I want to know why these people are being detained. I want to know why we live in Canada and we’re still detaining people with no charges, indefinitely,” he added.
Under Canadian law, detainees awaiting deportation can be jailed indefinitely until their cases are resolved. Prisoners are subject to 30-day review hearings with the Immigration and Refuge Board, but many detainees remain in jail for months awaiting a decision.
Loubani says he wants Canada to instate a minimum detention period of 90-days for all detainees, after which they should be released.
“We want a 90-day limit, which is the international standard. Ninety days is double the length of time that our families had to suffer with our detention. Double the length of time the Canadian people knew that we were behind bars,” Loubani said.
Tings Chak, a member the activist group No One is Illegal Toronto, says that many of the detainees remain at the Lindsay facility despite being granted Canadian refugee status.
“They are being detained because they cannot be deported back to a country where there is civil or economic conflict or that Canada can’t obtain travel documents for them,” said Chak.
Supporters of the detainees have appealed to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Corrections Minister Madeleine Meilleur for assistance, but say they have received no response.
In a statement to CTV Toronto, a spokesman for Blaney said “Canada has a fair and generous immigration system that allows in over 250,000 legal immigrants each year.
We will not compromise the integrity of our immigration system. Those who seek to take advantage of our generosity will be removed."
With files from CTV Toronto