Claims of cruel and unusual detention

WATCH ABOVE: 16×9’s “Not Wanted in Canada”

Long-term immigration detainees like Michael Mvogo, held in jail for nearly nine years by the Canada Border Services Agency, should be released until they can be deported, or their status in Canada is regularized.

That’s the view of Renu Mandhane, executive director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, which released a recent report saying detainees held for immigration reasons are treated as “something less than human” in provincial jails.

READ MORE: Not wanted in Canada: How the CBSA deals with some ‘inadmissibles’

“It’s not fair to be detaining people for indefinite periods,” Ms. Mandhane told Global 16×9, which profiled Mvogo in an investigation last season. He served a minimal sentence for cocaine possession in 2006, and has been held by authorities ever since, often in solitary confinement. The CBSA says he’s under a deportation order, and can’t be released because it can’t confirm his country of origin. Mvogo says he’s from Cameroon.

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The U of T report says the CBSA holds many detainees in a “legal black hole,” in institutions that are not monitored, and that mental health support is “woefully inadequate.”

“We know you don’t get treatment in a jail,” said Ms. Mandhane. “and we know long-term detention has a very serious impact on mental health. . . All the research suggests this is catastrophic for mental health issues.”

The recent death of a 39-year-old Somali man, Abdurahman Hassan, while in CBSA detention, is a perfect illustration, she said. Hassan died in a Peterborough, ON, hospital on June 11 after an apparent traumatic episode. His lawyer claims he suffered from a range of psychiatric and medical problems, and had been in custody since 2012.

“I hope his death actually isn’t written off as an isolated incident,” said Ms Mandhane, “but rather seen as the inevitable extreme result of a pretty systemic practice by the CBSA.”

The CBSA does not comment on specific cases of immigrant detention.

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