Friday, 24 March 2017

Indefinite imprisonment for a migrant

It is really hard to believe that it is possible that in Canada; a country that believes in justice for all, that people can be imprisoned in maximum security detention because they have no homeland anywhere in the world.

The people I am writing about are immigrants who have illegally slipped into Canada and are to be deported but can’t be deported even though they  are ready and willing to leave Canada since they would much rather be deported outside of Canada and out of jail than to stay in jail indefinitely.  The reason why they are still incarcerated is that no other country will admit that these unfortunate individuals are really citizens of those countries.

Let’s look at the case of 51-year-old Ghanaian, Kashif Ali. As of the 21st of March 2017, he has been detained for the past seven years in the Central East Correctional Centre, a maximum-security provincial jail in Lindsay, Ontario which is home to more immigration detainees than anywhere else in the country. There is no sign that he will ever be released.  Does this strike you as justice?  In some particular cases, it is but not in his case.

Ali’s cell is no larger than a regular bathroom although he can mingle with other detainees in the cell block during the days before they have to return to their cells at night.  

“I haven’t committed no crime,” he said, according to transcripts of his hearing. “You’re torturing me. You’re killing me. I’m not fighting to stay in the country.”  This is what he said to the the presiding Immigration and Refugee Board member at his hearing; one of many before that one.

Actually, he lied when he said he didn’t commit any crimes, He actually committed quite a few crimes in the past while he was in Canada.  Ali has lived most of his life in Canada, crossing the border from the U.S. in 1986 at age 21 with a fraudulent passport. But the former crack addict is not a citizen and he has nearly 30 criminal convictions, mostly for drug-related offences and also several convictions for assaults along with a break and enter conviction.  Ali’s rap sheet is long and continuous, extending from 1988 to 2009. But his total time in immigration detention is more than twice as long as all of his criminal sentences combined. His longest stint in jail for a criminal conviction was eight months on a break-and-enter in 1992.

Nine months later after making that plea, he is still one of the hundreds of unwanted immigrants Canada has jailed indefinitely. In fact, no other Immigrant who is in a provincial jail has been in one longer than Kashif Ali.

He lived in Toronto and was driving a cab in 1989 when he met nurse Penny Davidson, with whom he had a daughter, Sakina, in 1991, now age 25. The romantic relationship ended shortly after Sakina was born, but Davidson and Ali continue to maintain a friendship.

While he has strong ties to Canada, he is not trying to stay in the country. He wants to be deported.

Unfortunately, Ghana where he claims he was born, won’t take him back because he can’t prove that he is a Ghanaian citizen. Ali says he was born in Ghana to a Ghanaian father and Nigerian mother. He had little relationship with his father and he ended up moving to Nigeria with his mother as a child. He says he moved with his mother to Germany when he was 11 or 12 years old and later to the U.S. as a teenager in the 1980s. That’s when he started using drugs — first marijuana and later crack cocaine. He moved to Toronto when he was about 21.

The Canadian Immigration authorities nearly succeeded in getting rid of this man in January of 1996 after Ali, in a desperate attempt to get himself out of his first stint in immigration detention, had a friend forge a Ghanaian birth certificate so he could be removed. He was then booked on a commercial KLM flight to Accra, Ghana and seated in handcuffs between two Canadian government escorts. But after he was handed off to Ghanaian authorities, they discovered his fake document and jailed him for more than eight months before deporting him back to Canada, where he was detained for another year and a half before being released in 1998.His criminal activities then got him being imprisoned at the Detention Centre where immigrants are placed.

He has been locked up in this stalemate since February 19, 2010, costing taxpayers roughly $250 per day. So far, the taxpayers of Canada have paid as much as $102,200 a year and since he has been incarcerated for seven years, the amount the taxpayers have paid thus far is $1,960,000. Surely our money can be used for better uses than wasting it on a man who shouldn’t even be incarcerated.

To deport someone like Ali who doesn’t have a passport or any proof of citizenship, the receiving country would have to issue a one-way travel document. A Canadian border officer would then escort the deportee to ensure their arrival. Unfortunately, without a one-way Ghanaian travel document, he’s indefinitely stuck in jail.

Immigration detention, according to the Canada Border Services Agency, is not meant to be punitive as it is intended only to facilitate deportation. But while the average length of detention is about three weeks, seven years is going to the extreme.

 The Canadian government has been trying to deport him for more than 20 years. He was held for 10 months and 19 months on two occasions in the 1990s and again for nine months in the early 2000s.

Since the Ghanaian government won`t take him back since there is no way of establishing that he was actually born in Ghana, and he never took out citizenship in any of the countries he lived in, he is literally a man without a country. Canada is always willing to take in migrants who are stateless but certainly not one with a record that Ali has. Hence, he is incarcerated indefinitely.                                                                                                       

The first objective of detentions is to protect the health and safety of the agency’s response. That is why Ali is still incarcerated. He is detained because the authorities consider him a flight risk and a danger to society. I should point out that Canada has a law that makes it possible that when dangerous criminals have served their sentences, they can be placed into a correctional facility indefinitely. Ali isn`t actually imprisoned in one of those particular correctional facilities. He is in a provincial detention centre were all deportees are generally kept. If he had not committed his crimes, he would have been eligible to apply for a citizenship in Canada. If he had done that, he would not have been in the situation he currently is in.

Here is the quandary for both Canada and this 51-year-old prisoner. It is the policy of Canada that if an immigrant who has not become a Canadian citizen, commits a serious crime or a series of ongoing minor crimes, he will be deported to the country of his birth. If Guiana had been willing to accept him, he would have been turfed from Canada seven years ago. Unfortunately, the problem facing him and Canada a like is that there is no evidence anywhere in the world that he is a citizen either by birth or otherwise where can be deported to? 

Ali’s growing old in jail. He missed the last seven years of watching his daughter grow up, graduating high school and graduating nursing school. He even missed his daughter’s wedding. He’s lost out on everything. He’s going to die in the detention centre unless Canada finds a way to get him out of Canada.

Maybe the United Nations can give him a temporary UN passport that will get him into another country as an immigrant.

Quite frankly, I don`t really have that much sympathy for him. He is a liar, a fraudster, a thief and a violent man. He is right where he belongs. However, it is conceivable that when he reaches the age of eighty, the Canadian authorities will have sympathy for him and consider him less of a risk to society and release him to a retirement home where he will be cared for. He will however; never be granted citizenship in Canada. 

No comments: