Dead immigration detainee Francisco Astorga was arrested stealing food, said he was suicidal

Jail inmates are seen in this file image. PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

A Chilean immigration detainee who died at the Maplehurst jail near Toronto Sunday was arrested in January while stealing food and told police he was depressed and suicidal, Immigration and Refugee Board documents show.

Global News obtained copies of the transcript of an immigration detention hearing for Francisco Astorga held at the jail on January 15.

Astorga was deported in 2002 after abandoning a refugee claim. At that time, he told immigration authorities he was homeless. He had been in Canada illegally for about six years.

When he reappeared in the country at Toronto Pearson International Airport in November of last year, he was held for immediate deportation. However, he grabbed a Chinese citizen’s passport and fled the airport. Pearson was searched five times for him without success, according to the transcript.

Astorga disappeared until January 13, when he was arrested while trying to steal food from a store. (It’s not clear in the transcript where the store was — Toronto police did not respond to questions about whether it was their arrest.) He was charged with theft under $5,000 and turned over to the Canada Border Services Agency.

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“When you were arrested you said you suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, so that is a significant concern in terms of your reliability,” hearing officer Susy Kim told Astorga as she ordered his detention.

READ MORE: Immigration detainee’s mysterious death is the second in seven days

Astorga is the second immigration detainee to die this month. Melkioro Gahungu, a Burundian national, died at the Toronto East Detention Centre on March 7. Gahungu’s detention hearing transcripts also show him speaking openly about wanting to die. “If I had money, I would pay somebody so that they can shoot me or they can hit me with a club,” he told an immigration detention hearing in April, 2015.

Sgt. Andy Dennis of Halton Regional Police confirmed Astorga’s identity by e-mail. Astorga was found unresponsive in his cell on Sunday and was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

Astorga had a cellmate at the time of his death.

“The matter is still under investigation. We just know that there’s nothing suspicious at this time,” Dennis said.


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