The maximum-security purgatory for immigration detainees seems part of a “tangled and distorted” immigration system intent on maintaining fear among migrant workers
BY DESMOND COLE
JANUARY 26, 2015
In recent months I’ve been receiving collect calls from a man who’s being held at the Central East Correctional Centre, also known as the Lindsay Superjail. He’s one of about 200 immigration detainees who began hunger strikes at the jail in September 2013 to protest lengthy detentions and seemingly endless immigration hearings. More than a year later, many of them are still in a maximum-security purgatory that sounds like hell on earth.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) detains migrants who lack permanent immigration status. The agency says many are a public threat or might go into hiding unless they are locked up. Some of the detained are eventually deported to their home countries. Others cannot be sent back because their lives would be in danger, yet the government offers them no pathway to permanent status, even those who worked and paid taxes in Canada for years.
The caller, whom we’ll call DH (he doesn’t want his real name published because he fears reprisals) immigrated to Canada from the Middle East more than 15 years ago. He was accepted here on a work permit in the service industry and moved to a city in Ontario.
DH was preparing to apply for permanent residency in 2013 when immigration officials told him his permit was no longer valid. He was married to a Canadian citizen at the time and had never been required to renew his permit, when local police abruptly showed up at his door.