Take the Refugees Welcome Here Pledge!
Toronto, ON – Human rights organizations across the country reacted today to news that an individual has died while in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency. The individual died in the Toronto East Detention Centre. The individual’s identity has not been released.
“Nobody should die while they are in the custody of CBSA” said Mitch Goldberg, President of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. “The public needs answers. What was the cause of death? Could this death have been prevented? Did some action or inaction on the part of CBSA and the correctional facility that they use to house their detainees contribute to their deaths?”
“It is a shameful fact that since 2000, at least 13 people have died in the custody of CBSA and its predecessor agency,” said Samer Muscati, director the University of Toronto Faculty of Law’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP). “This latest death is a further stain on CBSA’s reputation and highlights the urgent need for reform of the way immigration detention is practiced in this country.”
“You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” writes Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet.
On Friday, March 4, 2016, a Turkish court sentenced two Syrian nationals found guilty in the smuggling of 3 year old Alan Kurdi and his family. The photograph of Alan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey became the catalyst for an outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees in Canada and beyond. Alan’s father, Abdullah must live with the devastating result of joining his family on a tiny boat in the hope they would all find safety. His wife and two sons, as well as two other people, perished on that journey. Far from abating, the number of refugees attempting dangerous maritime crossings continues to grow.
Refugees are fleeing desperate situations and will do whatever they must to save their lives. Often they have no choice but to turn to smugglers to help them escape.
These four Kurdish Syrian family members are traveling on foot. This group of brothers and a slightly older uncle left the town of Amuda located in the Kurdish region of Syria 10 days ago. As ISIS fighting was closing in to only 30kms from Amuda, they decided to leave. After making their way to the Turkish border and meeting their smuggler contact, they each had to pay 350 USD to cross the Turkish border on foot, under the cover of night. They made their way to the coastal city of Izmir from which they embarked on an inflatable boat for a perilous 15 minutes journey to Mitilini, Greece. They all had to pay 1200 USD each for this part of the trip. Upon arrival in Greece, they registered as EU refugees and then took a ferry to the Greek mainland where they then travelled by bus to Serbia.
By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada
By Gloria Nafziger, Amnesty Canada's Refugee Coordinator.
The recent announcement to bring 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Canada by September 2016 has the appearance of being a step in the right direction. Without a doubt, in the face of the most urgent refugee crisis in the past 40 years anything that can be done to expedite the resettlement of vulnerable refugees is a step in the right direction.
But it is a very small and disappointing step forward.
For a good part of the past year I received almost weekly phone calls from Abdi. He told me he was stateless and had spent most of his childhood in a refugee camp. He and his family arrived in Canada with as Convention Refugees. Twenty two years later he found himself in a maximum-security Provincial jail on an immigration hold, while the Canadian government tried to find a way to remove him to his country of birth. His birth however had never been registered, and his birth country did not recognize him as a citizen.
On Thursday May 21, Luis Alberto Mata became a permanent resident in Canada.
A month earlier, with support from Amnesty International, Luis launched a campaign, No Lives in Limbo calling on the Minister of Public Safety and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to grant him permanent status. Luis was recognized as a Convention Refugee in Canada in 2003, and then waited 12 years for a decision on his application for permanent residence. Amnesty International supported Luis and his family over those 12 years.
Following is part of a message from Luis to those who supported him.THE BEST SPRING OF THE LAST 12 YEARS!
“As I begin this reflection, it comes to my mind a profound and beautiful adage from Aristotle: "Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them".
By Gloria Nafziger
Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner, Amnesty International
I first met Luis and his family shortly after they arrived in Canada sometime in 1993. He was a writer and human rights activist from Colombia. Both he and his wife Diana had been targeted in Colombia because of their work in support of human rights. Shortly after they arrived in Canada they made a refugee claim. We couldn't talk much, because his English was poor and my Spanish was even worse; but from the beginning I considered him to be a compañero. My first vivid memory of Luis is a day in December 2003 when Luis, Diana and their friends from the Mennonite church came to our office to share the good news that just an hour or so earlier their refugee claim had been accepted on the spot at their refugee hearing. There were many hugs and much happiness. Luis and Diana began to plan to begin their new lives in Canada and quickly made their application to become permanent residents.
On 16 and 17 of February, Amnesty International intervened in an important case before the Supreme Court of Canada involving the rights of refugees seeking Canada’s protection. At issue in the case was whether refugees who mutually assist each other in fleeing persecution should be considered people smugglers and as a result inadmissible to Canada and permanently barred from accessing protection under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention). The Court was also asked to determine whether Good Samaritans or humanitarian organizations that assist refugees in reaching safety should also be considered to be people smugglers, and prosecuted for their acts.
The Honourable Joe Oliver, MP, PC
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
As organizations that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the inclusion of sections 172 and 173 in your recently introduced omnibus Budget Bill C-43. These sections amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and are essentially Private Members Bill C-585, which was introduced earlier this year.
Many of our organizations are health and social service agencies and legal and community advocates that work directly with refugee claimants and others with precarious immigration status. The change that would be made to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as a result of these provisions would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.
Amnesty International is disappointed in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the case of Febles v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In a 5-2 split decision, the Court found that if someone committed a serious crime in the past, he or she is forever barred from seeking refugee protection – regardless of such factors as having served a full sentence, the lengthy passage of time, or complete rehabilitation. Amnesty International, represented by Power Law LLP, had intervened in the case in March 2014.
by Gloria Nafziger
Campaigner, Refugees and Migrants
Amnesty International Canada
On June 19, the federal government passed Bill C-24, a new law which reportedly is designed to “Strengthen Canadian Citizenship”. Amnesty International believes the bill has serious human rights flaws.
Under this new law, Canadian citizenship will become harder to get and easier to lose. It will take away rights from countless Canadians, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens.
Amnesty International is concerned that the new law gives the federal government powers to revoke Canadian citizenship in some cases when individuals are convicted of specified crimes related to terrorism and similar offences.
by Gloria Nafziger
Campaigner, Refugees & Migrants
Amnesty International Canada
On June 14, under the banner of ‘My Door is Open for Refugees,’ Amnesty members and friends walked in support of refugees in Toronto. The streets of Toronto (at least those around Church and Wellesley) were alive with chants which could be heard many blocks away.
The walk in Toronto took us to the 519 Church Street Community Centre, an organization with a long history of supporting LGBTI refugees. We left a rainbow banner with Karlene Williams Clarke, an outreach coordinator at the Centre, in recognition of the tremendous work being done at the Centre on behalf of refugees.
The walk was a part of a larger action coordinated by the Canadian Council for Refugees, which encouraged groups across Canada to show solidarity and support for refugees on or around World Refugee Day.
Update: Interim Federal Health Care will be reinstated for refugees at midnight 4 November 2014. However the government has appealed the July decision in the Federal Court of Appeal.
Amnesty International welcomes the recent decision of the Federal Court regarding health care for refugees. The court found that the 2012 cuts to health care for refugees through the Interim Federal Health Program constituted “cruel and unusual treatment” and violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court found that the cuts deliberately targeted refugees, a vulnerable, poor, and disadvantaged group.
Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that changes to the Interim Federal Health Program were discriminatory and likely to result in violations of the right to health of refugees in Canada, in contravention of Canada’s international human rights obligations.
Maran was a journalist and owned his own media company in a country riddled with conflict. Believing that the media was a tool that he could use, he wanted to tell the story of his people to the world. Telling these stories was a way to protect his people and bring peace to his country. He faced horrible obstacles. His land became a place of massacre. At a certain point, he became helpless and lost the power to speak the truth and fight for freedom. He had few choices - die, surrender to the Government and become a journalist of propaganda, or flee. After his family was threatened because of his work, Maran fled.
Leaving his family, he paid a smuggler who promised to take him to a country where he would be safe. He had no choice about the country, only a small hope that he would eventually be safe.