18/03/2016 - Asking Canada for refugee status is not a crime

Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has issued the following statement:

The deaths of migrants in detention in Canada, shines a light on thousands of undocumented people arbitrarily detained by Canada Border Services Agency because they requested asylum in Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission acknowledges that some of the migrants are detained because of criminal activity, and that security considerations are essential. However, in a free and democratic society, the human rights of every person on Canadian soil must be respected. In 2015, the United Nations reported that 90% of detained migrants are being held for reasons that have nothing to do with security. Another study by the University of Toronto found that nearly one-third of all migrants detained across Canada are in facilities designed for the criminal population.

Asking Canada for refugee status is not a crime, yet these migrants and their families, including women and children, are being treated like criminals and held in detention centres for extended periods, without the ability to assert their human rights. Many have mental health issues.

This type of arbitrary detention should be brought to an end, or be used only as a last resort. The Commission echoes the concerns of several rights and refugee groups who have called for independent investigation of these recent deaths and supports the creation of an oversight body. 

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