Canadian Immigration Lawyers Are Fighting to Change the Indefinite Detainment Length for Immigrants Awaiting Deportation

Unlike most countries, Canada does not have a time limit on detaining immigrants who are awaiting deportation. Many would-be immigrants are stuck in immigration limbo, held in prisons for unreasonable amounts of time. This has had a negative impact on the lives of detainees and their families. What’s more, it’s also costly for Canadian taxpayers. Canadian immigration lawyers are advocating for a reasonable and humane time limit so detainees won’t be imprisoned for long periods of time with no end in sight.

According to an investigation by The Toronto Star, hundreds of immigrants are currently imprisoned across Canada for indefinite periods of time. The average detention time is three weeks, but some have been detained in prison indefinitely because they lack the required citizenship and travel documents to be deported.

Some detainees are held in maximum-security prisons, like Kashif Ali, who has been imprisoned for seven years, the longest immigration detainment in Canada so far.

Canada cannot deport him back to Ghana because he does not have any valid documents to prove his Ghanese citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport. For detainees who, like Ali, lack valid documents, their home countries must provide Canada with a one-way travel document to allow for their deportation.

But when these home countries do not comply, detainees are stuck in prison indefinitely. Ali has missed notable events in his Canadian-born daughter’s life during his detention, including her wedding and her graduations from high school and nursing school. His mental and physical health is also deteriorating because of this seemingly endless imprisonment.

Ali’s lengthy detention has not only hurt him and his family, but it is also costing Canadian taxpayers $250 per day, which adds up to $90,000 per year. Ali is one of many immigration detainees who are being held at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. This maximum-security prison holds the largest number of immigration detainees in Canada.

Every 30 days, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) reviews detainee cases, and if nothing has changed, they stay imprisoned. According to The Toronto Star, many immigration lawyers in Canada have deemed this a “frustrating and insufficient” process.

But there is hope: immigration detainees can now challenge these indefinite detentions in the Superior Court thanks to a 2015 case proving indefinite detainment to be a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canada needs a fair detention limit, with either a maximum detention length or a presumptive period of release. Most countries have maximum detention lengths, excluding Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.

But even the U.S. has a presumptive period of release. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a detainee must be released if after six months of detainment, there is no chance for deportation in a reasonable amount of time.

The indefinite detention length in Canada is not only unreasonable, but it’s inhumane and depriving detainees from a decent quality of life.