Report: 14,000 suspected illegal immigrants detained last year

Posted by admin on Jan 11th, 2010

By Kathleen Harris, 11th January 2010, Toronto Sun

OTTAWA — The number of suspected illegal immigrants and criminals detained at the border has soared by 33% in the past five years. Records obtained by the QMI Agency under Access to Information from the Canada Border Services Agency show 14,362 people were detained last year and held an average of 17 days at cost of $200 a day for each detainee, according to data for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. That’s up from 10,774 five years earlier.

From the total, 10,212 were released and 3,696 booted from the country.

“All individuals removed from Canada have been determined inadmissible under our laws,” said Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan. “The CBSA is responsible for ensuring individuals who are inadmissible to Canada by the courts are removed as quickly as possible.”

Individuals are detained because they are deemed a danger to the public, a flight risk for the immigration process or because they can’t satisfy the officer of their identity.

NDP MP Brian Masse called it a “significant increase” and said added security measures and more bogus refugee claims could be driving up numbers. But a crackdown on certain individuals entering Canada — including those denied on political grounds — could also be at play.

“Is it because we’ve increased the awareness and the services and coverage, or is it because we’ve changed the way we allow people to come in to Canada?” he said.

Liberal MP Mark Holland called the hike “dramatic,” but said it’s tough to know why because the detention process is cloaked in secrecy.

“This process is wholly untransparent, with no ombudsman or oversight agency responsible for keeping tabs on the actions and policies of the CBSA,” he said.

Holland said the lack of a complaint mechanism creates a “huge black hole” in Canada’s security structure, yet the Conservative government has failed to act on past recommendations for a scrutinizing body.

CBSA spokeswoman Patrizia Giolti said the detention and removal process can take up to two years and that most removals stem from immigration warrants for failed refugee claimants. Records note 60% of detainees are held for less than 48 hours.

About 44% were refugee claimants and 6% were minors. About 72% were detained in CBSA immigration holding centres, housed in Vancouver’s 24 beds, Toronto’s 120 beds or Montreal’s 150 beds. A fourth centre for security certificate detainees has six beds in Kingston.

The records say detention is a “last resort” after alternatives are considered, such as terms and conditions for release, a cash bond, third-party risk management or a GPS bracelet.

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