As It Happens

[UPDATED] Immigration detainee held in Ontario jail 'treated like an animal'

Immigration detainee Richard Abuwa awaits deportation to Nigeria but says that nearly 50 others will continue their hunger strike until Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale reconsiders their imprisonment.
The Central East Correction Centre in Lindsay, Ontario (Google Streetview)

[Updated August 15, 2016] Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said his government will spend $138 million to improve immigration detention facilities so that fewer people are held in provincial correctional centres. But those who are considered a flight risk, a risk to public safety, or whose identity is in question will remain in jail, he says. Goodale tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch: "You have to have your ability to cope with those very serious problems." 

Listen to our full interview with Minister Ralph Goodale here:

Last month, a group of immigrants being held at an Ontario jail went on a hunger strike to protest their treatment there. 6:24

Here's our original post for more on this story:

Richard Abuwa is about to be deported to Nigeria from an Ontario maximum security jail, but he's still speaking out on behalf of his fellow immigration detainees.

Abuwa is one of dozens of detainees who are hunger striking to protest their detention inside two Ontario facilities. Calling from inside the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario, Abuwa tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann that he has spent the last 27 months in what's called indefinite detention.
Supporters of hunger striking immigration detainees called for elected officials to meet with 50 men jailed without trial or charges that are calling for an end to indefinite maximum security detention. (Ellie Adekur/End Immigration Detention Network)

Abuwa arrived in Canada as a child but repeated run-ins with the law cost him his residency status and left him ineligible for citizenship. Abuwa had come from Nigeria but, until recently, the Nigerian government refused to allow his return. Abuwa says that the Canada Border Services Agency decided he was a flight risk and he joined the ranks of other immigration detainees, imprisoned indefinitely alongside criminals serving criminal sentences.

RICHARD ABUWA: To me there's no reason for me with no criminal charges living in a cage like an animal, treated like an animal, and then they expect me to behave rationally. It's not right. It's not fair.

HELEN MANN: So what are the demands then of those of you who've been on this hunger strike?

RA: We're trying to speak with [Public Safety Minister] Ralph Goodale to find out exactly where he stands on this message that he's trying to push out to us, because apparently he said that he's looking into the case of long-term detainees and that they're trying to implement something towards this fall, but the thing is, the fall, you know, that's just asking us to sit in here longer, more and more months, and that's not even a promise that in the fall we're going to be facing release. The longer we sit here in limbo, the hope starts to dwindle. 
A self-portrait and poem from R.R. who is on hunger strike in immigration detention. (End Immigration Detention Network)


On Thursday, a spokesman for Goodale said the minister's new plan for Canadian immigration detainees would be released "in the near future."

Abuwa talks more about the hunger strike and the anxieties he's feeling ahead of his deportation back to Nigeria on Monday. For more, listen to our full interview.


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