Second Death in Immigration Custody in One Week Reignites Calls for Detentions Overhaul

Immigration rights coalition End Immigration Detention Network is enraged and dismayed after a second immigration detainee died in Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) custody in one week. An emergency vigil will be held at CBSA offices to call for immediate action from the Trudeau government to end indefinite detention, end the use of provincial jails for immigration detention, overhaul of the judicial review process, and create an oversight body over the CBSA as first steps towards ending immigration detention.

Francisco Javier Romero Astorga died in Maplehurst Correction Centre on Sunday, March 13 while being jailed on behalf of CBSA in an Ontario facility. His death follows the death of Melkioro Gahungu in the Toronto East Detention Centre on Monday, March 7th. Astorga’s death is the 14th known case of death in border services custody since 2000, though CBSA has never publicly declared the total number of deaths in its care.


“Immigration detention is getting way out of hand. they are locking us up and forgetting about us. I have seen 5 people held in detention with me pass away while in CBSA custody, there is no end to detention and I am worried the next one will be me. I want immigration detention to end now” says 51 year old Francis Davidson, from inside Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. Davidson has been in Canada 27 years and has been held in detention for the nearly 6. He has been organizing a protest strike from inside immigration detention since September 2013.

“We were already grieving Melkioro when we heard of Francisco’s death, the heartbreak is just too much. The responsibility for this tragedy, the 14th death since 2000, ultimately lies with Federal politicians who must act swiftly to end detentions, particularly indefinite detentions, stop jailing migrants in provincial jails, and overhaul the broken judicial review process so that our friends and communities do not continue to die imprisoned without charges or trial,” adds Estefania Alfonso, a member of No One Is Illegal – Toronto.
“CBSA and the provincial prisons they rent out are incapable of keeping people alive in their custody and the United Nations has already issued condemning opinions against immigration detention” says Karin Baqi, Staff Lawyer at South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. “It is clear that immigration detention is deadly and unjustifiable. CBSA remains the only federal law enforcement agency without oversight, civilian, a human rights body or otherwise. They remain unaccountable for their crimes. These deaths will continue until they are brought under control.”
Immigration detainees that have died in custody since 2000
At least eight of the known deaths have taken place in Ontario provincial prisons
    1. Francisco Javier Romero Astorga (March 2016) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
    2. Melkioro Gahungu (March 2016) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
    3. Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan (June 2015) ‘Restrained by guards’ (in Ontario provincial prison)
    4. Joseph Dunn (September 2014) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
    5. Prince Maxamillion Akamai (April 2014) Denied adequate medical care (Toronto Immigration Holding Centre)
    6. Unidentified man (March 2013) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
    7. Lucia Vega Jimenez (December 2013) Suicide (in Vancouver immigration holding centre)
    8. Shawn Dwight Cole (December 2012) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)
    9. Unidentified man (August 2010) Cause of death unknown (in Laval immigration holding centre)
    10. Kevon O’Brien-Phillip (January 2010) Beaten by fellow inmates (in Ontario provincial prison)
    11. Jan Szamko (December 2009) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
    12. Joseph Fernandes (January 2007) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
    13. Sheik Kudrath (April 2000) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)
    14. Unidentified man (Unknown) Cause of death unknown (unknown)

Tonight’s vigil will take place at C.B.S.A offices at 74 Victoria St, Toronto Ontario.  It will begin at 7pm.