Presentation on theme: "Detention of asylum seekers in Canada Janet Cleveland, PhD CSSS de la Montagne Research Centre (McGill University)"— Presentation transcript:
Detention of asylum seekers in Canada Janet Cleveland, PhD CSSS de la Montagne Research Centre (McGill University)
Trends – detention and removals Detention Fluctuates (linked to numbers of new arrivals) No trend towards increase in detentions Proportion of asylum seekers: stable around 43% of all detentions (2004-2011) Removals From 2005 to 2008: stable at 12,000 per year 2011-2012: 16,500 % of failed claimants: stable around 73% of all removals Refugee claims acceptance rate Fluctuates - average 2002-2011: 42% 2010 and 2011: 38%
Categories of detained migrants Asylum seekers (claim not yet adjudicated) Detained at the outset of the refugee claim process Failed claimants Detained pending removal Non-citizens convicted of certain crimes Detained pending removal Non-citizens detained under security certificates
Detention of asylum seekers - overview About 8% of asylum seekers detained on making their claim Grounds for detention Danger/security/criminality < 6% Location Immigration holding centres (IHCs) – 72% Only 2 long-term IHCs (Toronto & Montreal) Jails – 28% Indefinite duration 28 days (average) Detention reviews 2 days, then 7 days, then every 30 days Limited review power, especially in identity cases
Immigration holding centres Medium-security jails Medium-security jails Guards, cameras, searches, locked doors, personal effects confiscated Guards, cameras, searches, locked doors, personal effects confiscated Separate wings: men, women, family Separate wings: men, women, family Rigid rules, tight control Rigid rules, tight control Ex.: refusal to get up punished by 24-hour solitary confinement Ex.: refusal to get up punished by 24-hour solitary confinement No mental health screening or counselling If suicidal 24/7 surveillance in segregation, or transfer to jail Handcuffs during transport, including to hospital Handcuffs during transport, including to hospital Minors and pregnant women exempted Minors and pregnant women exempted Sometimes during medical procedures (e.g., dental surgery) Sometimes during medical procedures (e.g., dental surgery)
Detention of migrant children 2005-2010: average number detained per year Total minors detained: around 650 Asylum seeker & refused claimant minors: around 400 + Children "accompanying" parents + Children in foster care while parent(s) detained Trends?
New detention policies Protecting Canadas Immigration System Act Group arrivals designated as irregular by Minister Suspected smuggling OR unable to process in timely manner Mandatory detention until final determination of refugee claim Detention review after 14 days, then 6 months Children 16-18 incarcerated as if they were adults Children under 16 -Informal detention with mother or foster care 5-year bar on permanent resident application, family sponsorship, travel First use: December 5, 2012 First use: December 5, 2012 5 groups of Romanian asylum seekers 5 groups of Romanian asylum seekers
New detention policies (cont.) Ordinary detentions Faster claims process Ordinary claims: hearing by 60 days, then appeal Designated Countries of Origin (DCO): 45 days, no appeal First DCO list - December 15, 2012 - 26 countries Easier to detain during entire process CBSA Detention & Removals Programs Evaluation Report, Nov. 2010 (…) an expedited refugee determination process, including removal of failed refugee claimants, will be implemented. (…) As the new Act eliminates automatic stay of removal for people from a designated country of origin while a judicial review is pending and for manifestly unfounded claims, detention will remain a key tool for ensuring that failed refugee claimants do not evade removal from Canada, particularly when the risk of the individual going underground is high. 10% increase in detentions anticipated
Context of anti-smuggling legislation Sept. 2008 – May 2009: final phase of Sri Lankan civil war 330,000 civilians trapped in war zone Post-war: survivors detained in army camps October 2009: 76 Tamil asylum seekers arrive on the Ocean Lady August 2010: 492 Tamil asylum seekers arrive on the Sun Sea (63 women, 49 children) All detained: adults in jails, children with mothers in secure youth custody facility Average detention: about 5 months Repeated interrogations by Canadian Border Services Agency Protracted legal battles around release October 2010: Anti-smuggling bill Mandatory detention, 1 year minimum
Sun Sea interviews (2011) 21 interviews post-detention Severe premigration trauma - Lack of food/water in Sri Lanka and on ship (21) - Months of heavy shelling, saw other people killed, had relatives or friends who were killed, been homeless, forcibly confined (19) - Torture (15) - Ex. hung upside down for hours, lowered into water trough, beaten with plastic pipes filled with sand In Canada - Lengthy detention - Repeated interrogation
The worst thing that happened to me here was that CBSA kept asking me questions about the incident that caused me so much heartbreak. We were all in a bunker dug in the ground. There was another family there, with small children. There was not enough room for everyone so we gave the best protected place to the small children. A shell fell on us. My uncle died that day, and so did my grandparents who had brought me up. My mother got shrapnel in her leg and was not able to walk. My aunt also. All those who were not completely inside the bunker were injured or killed. CBSA asked me again and again to repeat this story, again and again, although I was crying. It caused me so much distress and pain. Young woman from the Sun Sea, detained 4 months. Two years after this incident, she still had nightmares about it almost every night.
Sun Sea migrants – symptoms About 75% report sleep problems, nightmares and/or intrusive memories of war trauma or torture, intrusive fears of being sent back or detained, intrusive fears for family back home Several report nightmares relating to detention and interrogation in Canada Other vulnerabilities Couple with severely handicapped child Pregnant women Physical injuries linked to war or torture Pre-existing psychiatric problems
Study: Mental health of detained adult asylum seekers (2010-2011) 122 detained asylum seekers Immigration Holding Centres in Montreal and Toronto Time detained at interview 18 days (median), 31 days (average) 66 nondetained asylum seekers: Comparison group Mental health questionnaires and interviews Findings Trauma exposure: high (average 9 events) and equivalent in the two groups Significantly higher symptom levels in detained group
Do you have thoughts or memories that come to you a lot, that you think about again and again? I still up till now have some memories and it is not easy to disappear, especially for my father, how my father get killed. Its like I see it again. Im dreaming every day. In my mind I dont believe and I sometimes think I can see again my father. You feel sad? Yes, I feel sad. (He starts to weep). I feel angry sometimes. Hes the only person who help me, he help me too much. I try to forget but its not easy, I remember many things. If my father not die I would be with him, I wouldnt be here. My father loved me. He did so much for me. In Somalia, hard to go to school, and he fight for me to go to school. Hes my everything. He help me for everything. Somali youth, detained 2 months
Study conclusions High level of premigration trauma exposure Potentially vulnerable population Even brief detention is associated with significantly higher levels of PTSD, depression and anxiety symptoms Men in detention just as distressed as women Reasons for high distress levels Disempowerment, loss of agency, uncertainty Isolation Being treated like a criminal Protective factors: Hope of a new and safer life