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Frequently Asked Questions

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1. What is #MigrantStrike and #EndIndefiniteDetention?

Over 191 undocumented migrants began a strike in Lindsay’s maximum security jail on September 17th, 2013. That strike is continuing. The detainees are protesting Harper’s prison policy which jails them indefinitely and are calling for better better prison conditions. They insist “remove us within 90 days, or release us!” There are hundreds of other such migrants locked up in provincial jails across the country, as well as in women’s jails in Ontario.

Detained migrants, their families and supporters have formed the Campaign to End Indefinite Detention and are making four simple, pragmatic demands:

1 – Freedom for the wrongly jailed: Release all migrant detainees who have been held for longer than 90 days.

2 – End arbitrary and indefinite detention: If removal cannot happen within 90 days, immigration detainees must be released. Limits on detention periods are recommended by the United Nations, and are the law in the United States and the European Union.

3 – No maximum security holds: Immigration detainees should not be held in maximum security provincial jails; must have access to basic services and be close to family members.

4 – Overhaul the adjudication process: Give migrants fair and full access to judicial review, legal aid, bail programs and pro bono representation.

2. What do you mean they are striking? How has the prison responded? 

The detainees started their protest by going on a hunger strike. A few of them continued that hunger strike for over 65 days. As a result of the strike many of the strike organizers were either deported or released. Detainees have since refused to go to their legal proceedings (detention reviews), refused prison services, and refused to go on lock-down. This has intensified fines and repression but their resistance continues. Detainees went on a hunger fast in December when we protested out Lindsay jail, and they went back on a fast to mark the 1 year anniversary of their struggle on September 17, 2014.

2. What do you mean they are undocumented?

They either overstayed their immigration visas (student, tourist, foreign worker, etc) or their immigration status (refugee status, permanent residency, etc) was revoked because they were found guilty of a crime.

3. Why are they in jail?

These migrants have no charges against them and no trial forthcoming. Harper’s prison policy is “tough on crime” and soft on facts. Immigration enforcement argues that these migrants are in max security jail because they are going to be removed soon. Fact is, some of them have been in jail for up to 10 years because Canada cannot deport them but will not release them. Immigration enforcement has admitted they have no real criteria to make the decision where people are held, and make these decisions on a case by case arbitrary basis.

4. What do you mean Canada cannot deport them?

Many countries like Cuba, Cameroon, Vietnam, Jamaica and others refuse to take citizens back who are facing deportation. Some of the other detainees’ lives will be at risk if they are deported back to their home country because they are refugees so they cannot be deported.

5. What do other countries do about such immigration detainees?

The United Nations recommends a “presumptive period”, a period of days within which migrants must be deported. If they are not deported by then, these migrants must be released. In the US and the UK, that period is 90 days but Canada doesn’t have a presumptive period. We are calling for more than a presumptive period, we are calling for a 90 day limit on detentions.

6. Aren’t they criminals? Won’t it be a risk to release them?

Overstaying your immigration visa in Canada is not a criminal offence – it is an immigration violation. Immigration violations are administrative offences, similar to not paying your parking ticket. There are no criminal charges against many of these men. Those who were convicted of a crime have already served their jail sentences. Deporting people for a crime they have already served a sentence for is unfair double punishment enough. Keeping them in jail indefinitely after their jail term is over is simply unacceptable.

7. Who is paying for this?

You are. These migrants are federal detainees but are being held in provincial prisons. Harper is using taxpayer money to rent space from the provincial government for these jails. Its costs approximately $239/day to keep these men locked up in maximum security jail. For 191 detainees, that is $16.66 million dollars annually. In total, immigration detention costs taxpayers over $50 million.

8. What’s wrong with maximum security prisons?

Conditions in Lindsay jail are really bad. The food the men get is worse than the rest of the prison; they don’t have full access to healthcare, legal or family visits. Many of them are locked up for 18 to 21 hours a day. What’s worse is that those still on hunger strike have been locked up in segregation – so they are in their cells all the time and can’t get out. The detainees are not allowed international phone calls – even though many of them have family members abroad.

10. Who is responsible for this?

Harper’s Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney is responsible. He could easily introduce regulations creating a presumptive period, and limiting immigration detention to 90 days. He could even immediately instruct counsel for immigration enforcement to not contest release of immigration detainees after 90 days of detention.
If you part of an organization, endorse the #MigrantStrike campaign - get in touch with us at

Here are other things you can do on your own:
Read Updates from the Campaign here, and check out our groundbreaking report on immigration detention.