January 31, 2014 9:50 pm
Updated: February 1, 2014 1:15 am

Mexico “angry” with in-custody death: official

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The Mexican government is “quite angry” after one of its citizens died last month while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency, the country’s consul general in Vancouver said Friday.

Claudia Franco said her government is also calling for a thorough investigation into the tragedy.

Lucia Vega Jimenez, 42, was found hanging in a shower stall in a holding cell at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 20, and died in hospital a week later.

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During an interview, Franco said her government was informed of the suicide attempt the same day, one day before Vega Jimenez was to be deported from Canada.

“Any death concerning a Mexican national is a big issue,” said Franco. “Protection services are constant, and of course our full attention is to any case involving Mexican nationals. This is one of those cases.”

Franco said she has formally asked the border agency for information on the circumstances of the death, and the consulate has contacted the BC Coroners Service.

“We are quite angry about what happened. We expect the authorities to conduct an impartial investigation….”

She said the Mexican government will be following the case very closely and hopes to have the results as soon as possible.

“I think these were very unfortunate events,” she said. “Our first concern is with the family, of course, and we hope that the facts surrounding her attempted suicide will be cleared as soon as possible.”

The border agency has already stated in an email that its detention facilities are regularly monitored by independent organizations, detainees are informed of their legal rights, and they are allowed access to legal counsel, telephones and visitation.

“The health and safety of those in our care is of paramount concern. We take this responsibility very seriously and it is important to determine the circumstances surrounding any loss of life,” said spokeswoman Amitha Carnadin in the statement.

Vega Jimenez was taken into custody at Vancouver International Airport last month, but news of her death only surfaced in the media earlier this week.

Pierre Fortin, national president of Customs and Immigration Union, said during an interview earlier this week, that while Vega Jimenez was in the custody of CBSA, she was detained by a sub-contracted security company.

Coroner Barb McLintock also said Vega Jimenez was in custody at “a different facility” before being taken to the holding area at Vancouver International Airport.

Vega Jimenez was a migrant who worked at a Vancouver hotel when she was arrested last month over an unpaid transit ticket, said the group No One is Illegal.

She was transferred to jail and then sent to the CBSA holding cells to await deportation.

The BC Civil Liberties Association and No One Is Illegal are calling for an independent civilian inquiry.

A vigil is planned for Friday evening to remember the woman in downtown Vancouver, outside the border services agency office.

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