OCASI Statement - Death in Immigration Custody: End Immigration Detention



Toronto, ON (March 15, 2016) – OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants is shocked and saddened by the news of the death of yet another person who has died while in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

The person, identified as Francisco Javier Romero Astorga has reportedly died early on Sunday at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton – the second death in the same week of a person in CBSA custody. Mr. Astorga is the 14th person to die in CBSA's custody since 2000.

OCASI calls on the government of Canada to take immediate action to ensure that no one else dies while in the custody of CBSA.

Immigration detainees themselves as well as several human rights groups have called on the government to act immediately to end the inhumane way that Canada treats immigration detainees. OCASI supports these calls, specifically calling on the government to immediately:

  • End the practice of holding immigration detainees in provincial jails;
  • End the practice of indefinite immigration detention;
  • End the practice of detaining children;
  • Find alternatives to detention; and
  • Provide independent oversight of Canada Border Services Agency.

The majority of detainees are racialized, and are from countries in the Global South, reflecting the entrenched and persistent racial inequities in Canada and around the world.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee last year called Canada to task over its’ practice of indefinite immigration detention, lack of alternatives and lack of medical support for detainees.

Immigration detainees at Ontario’s provincial jail in Lindsay Ontario have gone on hunger strike to protest their horrific detention conditions, including solitary confinement, harassment and abuse.

The Red Cross has called on Canada to end the practice of putting children in detention. Many children are in immigration jail because their parents are in CBSA custody and are given no alternatives to detention.

Canada is yet to implement one of the major recommendations from the Coroner’s inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez in 2014 while in CBSA custody - to appoint an independent ombudsperson.

Immigration detainees are jailed for immigration offences, not for criminal activity. It is past time that Canada ended the practice of immigration detention.