Immigration Detainees On Hunger Strike Demand Meeting With Ralph Goodale

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TORONTO — A group advocating for full immigration status for all migrants says more than 50 immigration detainees began refusing food Monday in two Ontario centres.

The End Immigration Detention Network says the detainees are protesting prison conditions that include increasing lockdowns and the use of solitary confinement, and are calling for an end to indefinite detentions in maximum security prisons.

ralph goodale
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale arrives to a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

The immigration detainees are asking for a meeting with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to discuss their concerns. A spokesperson from Goodale's office was not immediately available for comment.

Those taking part in the protest are housed at the maximum security Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., and the Toronto East Detention Centre.

The End Immigration Detention Network says immigration detainees previously went on a hunger strike that began on April 21, and met with officials from Canada Border Services Agency.

'Cruel and unusual punishment'

But the group says CBSA has not followed through on promises it made and the detainees have begun the new hunger strike — this time calling for a meeting with elected officials.

"We would like to meet with MPs," said Toby Clark, who has been in immigration detention since August 2014.

"To me, the way immigration detention is right now, it's cruel and unusual punishment," Clark said Monday in a release.

Long lockdowns in summer

Sharmeen Khan of End Immigration Detention Network said detainees are often on long lockdowns during the summer — sometimes kept in their cells for days in a row, unable to speak with their families, or get legal support.

"Goodale must meet with the detainees, and commit to upholding international norms and basic human rights by ending immigration detention," Khan said.

"Many of these detainees are already sick, this hunger strike could put them in grave danger."

Goodale said in May that federal authorities were looking into alternatives to detaining newcomers, such as bail and electronic monitoring.

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