Chantal Eustace, Vancouver Sun
Published: Sunday, July 08, 2007
VANCOUVER — Laibar Singh’s eyes flickered and watered as
supporters circled his wheelchair outside the Abbotsford, B.C.
temple where the paralysed refugee claimant fled this weekend.
Singh, who entered the country with a fake passport four years
ago, was scheduled to be deported Sunday afternoon. Instead,
the 48-year-old father of four decided to risk his life for a chance
to stay in Canada.
With the help of friends, he was wheeled out of an acute care
facility in Vancouver and into a taxi Friday afternoon.
The group then visited numerous temples in the Lower Mainland
before ending up at the Gurdwara Kalgidhar Darbar Sahib Society
— the temple in Abbotsford that Singh calls his sanctuary.
Singh, who became paralysed last year after he suffered an
aneurysm, requires regular medical attention — including dialysis
— and he cannot feed himself.
Singh said he feels optimistic the government will grant him
refugee status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Harsha Walia, a spokeswoman for the refugee rights group,
No One is Illegal, said she worried about Singh’s health now
that he is out of hospital.
“He needs imminent medical care within the next 24 hours,”
Walia said Singh, who is not expected to recover from his
condition, faced difficult options — deportation or sanctuary in
a temple — neither of which satisfied his urgent health needs.
As long as Singh is inside the temple, he won’t be removed by
officials, said Faith St. John, a spokeswoman for the Canadian
Border Services Agency.
“Even though there’s no legal impediment to us removing
someone from a place of worship, we will not go into a place of
worship to remove them,” St. John said, adding the government
does not condone this sort of behaviour.
“If they are ordered to depart Canada, they are expected to
Saturday, July 28, 2007
TheStar.com - News - Nine months hiding in a church
'I'm not lazy. If I have the papers to work, I can work my head off'
FELICIA ABIMBOLA, who faces deportation
Fearful woman takes sanctuary to fight deportation that also threatens her Canadian-born child, 11
Jul 07, 2007 04:30 AM
While 11-year-old Alice finds the box of tissues, her mother cries as she tells how she has come to live in the choir room of an Anglican church in Mississauga – and is crying still at what might happen if she leaves.
Felicia Abimbola knows it was a desperate measure, but when she was ordered after 17 years here to return to her native Nigeria, she faced a desperate choice: Ask her church for sanctuary, or depart for Africa and decide whether to leave her Canadian-born daughter behind.
That was in October.
She hasn't left the Trinity Anglican church since.
Abimbola doesn't want to return to Nigeria. She says she has no life there: Her husband died shortly after she arrived here and she has since been living with her brother-in-law who, according to Nigerian custom, has become her common-law husband. They share a child, Alice, but he can't work and isn't able to care for her.
After arriving in Canada on a two-week visitor's permit, Abimbola has made three applications to stay on humanitarian grounds. She's awaiting a decision on the third.
Few illegal immigrants use it, but there is a last resort for those desperate to stay: church sanctuary. No law protects them there, but it's a long-standing tradition that the state won't invade church space to take someone into custody.
Citizenship and Immigration knows of 10 such cases across the country – people living in places of worship to avoid deportation.
Abimbola is on that list.
For nine months now, she's has been living in a room with white walls and fluorescent lights. It's furnished with donated armchairs and twin beds pushed together, the piano tucked to the side and her girl's stuffed toys scattered about.
Alice – too shy to be in a picture – wears a blue denim shirt and orange Croc shoes. During the interview, she says little, sits politely next to her mother and doesn't fidget. She sleeps at her father's nearby apartment but spends long hours every day with her mother at the church near the Queen Elizabeth Way and Hurontario St.
When the church heard of Abimbola's plight, the vote was unanimous to give her sanctuary. They chose the choir room for her to inhabit because it has two large, curtained windows and is carpeted.
Still, it's been hard.
"I can't sleep at night," she says.
The church kitchen is far away. Going there alone makes her nervous and Abimbola says she dislikes living so close to a graveyard.
And she's angry. She's no criminal, she says. She has a diploma as a personal support worker. She's not looking to be a burden.
"I'm not lazy. If I have the papers to work, I can work my head off. I'll work in any job."
Chantal Desloges, Abimbola's lawyer, says her situation is rare.
"(Churches) really are a last resort," Desloges says. "It's a weird combination of circumstances. You've got to have a church that's willing to take that kind of responsibility. It says something about (Abimbola) that this church is willing to go so far to back her up."
"It's still considered to be like house arrest," says Rev. Majed El Shafie, founder of One Free World International, an advocacy group working on Abimbola's behalf.
Still, rules are rules.
"Canada has an internationally recognized system for people fleeing persecution in their home countries," says Karen Shad-Evelyn at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. There are risk assessments and safeguards.
"But it's integral to the system that people respect our immigration laws," she says.
Desloges says it could be another two years before the government rules on Abimbola's latest appeal.
"(Nigeria) is no place for an innocent child," she says. But with no other family in Canada, Abimbola says her options for Alice are limited if she's deported.
If she gets to stay? "I'm going to shout hallelujah first. Then I'm going to hold my baby."
OTTAWA – Immigration Minister Diane Finley will have more control over the appointment of refugee adjudicators, under a new process instituted Monday for selecting members of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
The move was immediately slammed by opposition critics and refugee advocates, who predicted the Harper government will stack the IRB with Tory "cronies" who want to make it harder for refugees to find safe haven in Canada.
"I certainly think this opens up the door to greater interference in the selection process," said Liberal immigration critic Omar Alghabra.
Alghabra said he expects more adjudicators will be affiliated with the Conservative party and will also likely "share conservative ideology" on refugees. He noted that the Tories' predecessor parties, Reform and Canadian Alliance, "had a history of being unfriendly towards refugees and immigrants."
However, Finley said in a news release that the new selection process "will strengthen the merit-based competency" of IRB appointees "while increasing transparency and fairness."
The new process is based on recommendations from the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat, which the Harper government asked last fall to review the appointment process. The secretariat reported in January and the government has indicated ever since that it intended to adopt all the recommendations, despite widespread criticism.
The former chairman of the IRB, Jean-Guy Fleury, resigned last winter to protest the imminent changes.
Under the new process, two previous arm's-length advisory panels have been merged into one new selection advisory board. Of the seven members on the new board, three are jointly appointed by the minister and the IRB chairman from outside the IRB.
All applicants will also have to pass a written exam to be eligible for appointment.
Winnipeg immigration lawyer David Matas said reforms were implemented only a few years ago by the previous Liberal government to depoliticize appointments to the IRB. The Tories, he said, appear intent on re-politicizing the appointments.
Matas said the motivation appears to be "patronage or ideology or both."
He noted that the refugee determination system had been working well until the Tories decided to tinker with the selection process, grinding appointments to a halt.
Indeed, when the Harper government took power in early 2006, there were only five vacancies on the IRB and the backlog of claims had been reduced to zero for the first time in a decade.
As of last month, there were 45 vacancies in the IRB's 127-member refugee protection division. The backlog had grown to about 8,000 cases and was growing by almost 1,000 a month.
NDP MP Olivia Chow said the new selection process is designed to produce "blue cronies rather than red cronies" on the IRB. Given the troubles at the board, she said replacing Liberal patronage appointments with Tory patronage appointments is "like worrying about the colour of the carpet when the house is burning down."
CRIME / Murder in Mexico
Tamara Letkeman / Xtra West / Friday, July 06, 2007
Friends of a former Vancouver resident murdered in Mexico whose refugee claim was rejected by Canada are claiming he was killed because he was gay, and calling into question this country's attitude toward queer refugees seeking asylum.
Enrique Villegas, 35, was found dead in his apartment in Mexico City Apr 7, just over four years after his refugee claim — which he made based on his sexual orientation — was denied by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
Mexican police say the murder was the work of drug traffickers, as reported by Univision.com, a Spanish-language news website, but close friends of Villegas in Vancouver are not convinced.
"He was sweet. He didn't smoke, he didn't drink. He was a very clean person, very healthy," says Martina Cordero, who knew Villegas for seven years.
"The police linked the murder to drug trafficking because many of Mexico's drug dealers are from [the state of] Sinaloa, where Enrique was from," says Alfredo Serrano, who also knew Villegas for seven years.
Villegas was also shot in the back of the neck, a style of execution favoured by drug dealers, adds Serrano.
But he and Cordero — who spoke on the phone to Villegas every day until shortly before his death — believe their friend's sexual orientation was a key factor in his murder.
Serrano describes how, a few days before he was killed, Villegas told him he had started "dating" someone, a homeless man without a job. Serrano says Villegas, who "wanted to help everyone all the time," told him he had taken the man to his restaurant to help him do some work, and planned to take him to his apartment afterwards. That was the last time they spoke.
Four days later, Villegas' body was discovered.
"According to the doctors, he was dead for two or three days," Serrano says. "There is no chance that somebody broke in. [The murderer] had to be somebody he let in. He was living in a very secure apartment complex."
Serrano and Cordero believe the man in question latched onto Villegas once he found out he was gay in order to exploit him.
"In Mexico it can be dangerous for people to reveal they are gay. When you say something different to other people, they try to take advantage of you," Serrano says. "We are very sure there is a link with this guy without a job, without a place to stay."
Despite repeated attempts, a police spokesperson could not be reached in Mexico City for comment on the case.
Majority of queer Mexicans not granted refugee status, group says
Villegas, who lived in Vancouver for several years, returned to Mexico after Canada rejected his refugee claim in February 2003.
"He felt so sad," says Serrano. "He came here because he said he felt safe here."
The IRB will not release the details of a particular claimant's case, but Chris Morrissey, a local immigration consultant, says refugee claims made by queer Mexicans are usually denied.
"The majority of cases have not been successful," says Morrissey, who is also a volunteer with the Rainbow Refugee Committee, a non-profit group offering support to queer refugee claimants.
Morrissey explains that in order to be granted refugee status, claimants must prove, among other things, that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country. Morrissey says this can be difficult for Mexicans as there is nothing in Mexican law that prohibits having sex with same-sex partners.
"Much of it depends on whether you have personally been threatened and if it would continue if you went back to your country," she says. "You have to be able to demonstrate this."
Melissa Anderson, senior communications advisor for the IRB, says Mexicans who are being persecuted because of their sexual orientation have the option to move to another region of their country where they will presumably be safe.
"There is a persuasive decision that argues homosexual refugee claimants have an in-country flight alternative in Mexico City to escape persecution for their sexual orientation," Anderson says.
"Persuasive decisions" have been identified by the IRB as being of persuasive value in developing jurisprudence. Decision-makers are encouraged to use them in the interest of consistency.
'It's not okay to be out in everyday life'
Anderson pointed Xtra West to RefLex, the IRB's legal periodical, which offers summaries of refugee claims. The decision to deny many queer Mexicans' claims is based on the idea that Mexico City is becoming increasingly tolerant of queer culture.
"A well-organized gay movement has achieved a significant level of acceptance in one of Mexico's most Catholic and conservative cities," states a decision made Feb 25, 2005. "Though both the city and the state are governed by the centre-right and generally gay-hostile National Action Party (PAN), a political accommodation has been reached, significantly improving conditions for the city's homosexual population."
But Pat MacDiarmid, who also volunteers with the Rainbow Refugee Committee, says despite increased tolerance, Mexico can be a dangerous place for queers.
"In theory, it's not against the law to be queer, but it can be quite oppressive — it's not okay to be out in everyday life," she maintains. "They can court danger just by being themselves."
Queer refugees allege harassment by Mexican police
Serrano and Cordero are both familiar with this scenario, having both successfully claimed refugee status here after fleeing alleged police persecution in Mexico. Serrano says he left his country with his partner after police began harassing them and extorting money from them after they were seen leaving a gay bar in Mexico City.
Cordero left after police allegedly threatened her life when they discovered she was transgendered.
"The police can make your life a nightmare," claims Serrano, who worked as a reporter in the pressroom of the Mexico City police department for 11 years. "They see you as a resource to get money. They threaten to tell your family or your boss."
Although they believe they have information that could shed light on Villegas' murder, Serrano and Cordero say it is useless to contact Mexican police.
"When they find out the victim was gay, they say gay people deserve that," Cordero alleges.
'Don't be yourself, and you'll be okay'
Rainbow Refugee Committee volunteers say the people deciding the fate of queer refugees in Canada do not fully understand the implications of being queer in Mexico.
El-Farouk Khaki, an immigration lawyer who specializes in refugee claims based on sexual orientation, says the IRB tends to be more sympathetic to queer claimants from countries where homosexuality is illegal, but cases involving applicants from countries like Mexico are more tenuous.
"We need to look beyond what social advances have been made to the overall human rights situation to see how rights have improved for gay people," Khaki told Xtra in January. "Most Latin American countries have amazing constitutions, but that doesn't mean [they are] enforced."
"It has been determined by the powers that be that Mexico is friendly," says Morrissey. "Many people who go to Mexico don't perceive that people are persecuted over sexual orientation."
MacDiarmid concurs, adding that some tribunal members seem to think queer refugees will be able to go back to their countries and live without incident, provided they "be more discreet."
"It's like they're saying, if you don't flaunt it, you'll be fine. You've got to wonder how it's okay to suggest to someone: 'Don't be yourself, and you'll be okay.'"
The Case of Benamar Benatta: Canada's First 9/11 Rendition to Torture
JULY 20, 2007, TORONTO -- Today Benamar Benatta marks a
bittersweet anniversary. It was one year ago that he came to
Canada for the second time, continuing his effort to be accepted
here as a refugee. The first time he came to Canada, September
5, 2001, his life changed forever, and he wants to find out why.
Benatta born born in Algeria, but came to North America to flee
political persecution and threats to his life while serving in the
Algerian Armed Forces as an aeronautical engineer. In early
September 2001 Mr.Benatta crossed the border into Canada and
claimed political asylum. Mr. Benatta was detained pending further
inquiries into his identity.
While in Canadian custody and unbeknownst to Mr. Benatta,
terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre in New York City
and other targets on September 11, 2001. Canadian officials alerted
the Americans to the presence of Mr. Benatta and identified him as
a person who allegedly had something to do with the attacks of
September 11, 2001, seemingly because he was a Muslim man who
knew something about airplanes. Without a hearing, without counsel
and without conducting proceedings in his first language (French),
Mr. Benatta was unceremoniously driven over the border in the
back of a car and handed over to the Americans on September 12,
2001. This was an illegal transfer by the Canadian government.
This was against the law.
While being held in the notorious Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention
Centre, Benatta was assigned "high security status" and detained in
solitary confinement; he was deprived of sleep; his cell was
illuminated 24 hours a day; guardsregularly beat him, and kept him
constantly awake by banging on his door every half hour, a door
which had been spray-painted WTC (World Trade Centre).
Mr. Benatta was actually cleared of any terrorist suspicions by the
FBI in November 2001; however, he was never told that he was
cleared. In fact, Mr. Benatta was held incommunicado and without
access to legal counsel. In all, Mr. Benatta spent nearly five years of
his life in American prisons were he was abused and tortured
(as documented by the United Nations and the U.S. department
of justice). Indeed, according to U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge H.
Kenneth Schroeder Jr.,"As a result of the horrific events of Sept.
11, 2001, the Canadian authorities alerted United States authorities
of defendant's presence and profile ... and returned him to the
United States....The defendant in this case undeniably was
deprived of his liberty, and held in custody under harsh conditions
which can be said to be 'oppressive'....To accept the [U.S.]
government's arguments "would be to join in the charade that
has been perpetrated."
In an opinion adopted in September, 2004, by the United Nations
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, it was concluded with
respect to Benatta, "Finally, the [U.S.] Government has said
nothing about the high-security prison regime (involving
impositions that could be described as torture), which, for no
reason whatsoever, was imposed on him . . ." After all of this
hardship, Benatta came across the border a year ago, and has
resumed his claim for asylum. His application is currently pending,
and like many refugees, he lives in a state of limbo, unable to get on
with his life, and haunted by some serious questions that have yet
to be answered.
How was Canada involved in all of this? Why did Canadian officials
undertake this rendition to torture?
Benatta sought intervenor status at the Iacobucci Commission
investigating the cases of torture against Canadians Ahmad
El-Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin, but was
unfortunately turned down. In his request for standing, Benatta
had pointed out that El-Maati, Almalki, and Nureddin "were all
detained and tortured on foregin soil allegedly because of
information provided to foreign governments (Syria and
Egypt) by Canadian officials linking these men to terrorist
activities. Mr. Benatta was also detained and tortured on foreign
soil because of information provided to a foreign government
(America) by Canadian officials linking Mr. Benatta to terrorist
activities, in particular, the events of September 11, 2001."
But Iacobucci did not see it that way, and what was supposed to be
a public inquiry is in fact being held in secret, without the presence
of those three men and their lawyers.
Since his return to Canada, Benatta sought records of his earlier
refugee claim held by Canadian officials, but was informed his 2001
claim has been "misplaced." The Canadian government also
erroneously alleges that Benatta withdrew his claim for asylum
prior to the 9/12/2001 rendition, but has produced no
documentation to support this outrageous claim.
Earlier this year, Benatta and his supporters began the Benatta
Coalition for a Public Review, which could certainly use the
support of everyone in this country who cares about the
complicity of the Canadian government and its so-called
"intelligence" agencies in acts of torture.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Get more information by going to Benamar's website,
Once there, sign the online petition calling for a public review.
There are also media clips from a press conference Benamar
and his supporters held in Ottawa earlier this year.
2. Write to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, demanding
that he grant a public review of Benatta's case so that Benamar
and all people in Canada can get the answers they need, and to
prevent such human rights abuses from occurring.
Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Building, 13th Floor
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P8
3. Invite Benamar to speak to your organization. He is fluent
in English and French, and can be contacted at email@example.com
4. If you are with the media, Benamar is happy to speak with you.
Again, contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org or via his lawyer,
Nicole Chrolavicius, email@example.com
5. Donate to the costs of the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review;
to find out how, email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jul 27, 2007 04:30 AM
Staff reporter - Toronto Star
While the immigration minister tried to distance the Conservative government from a policy asking Indian applicants named Singh or Kaur to change their surnames, MPs yesterday said the New Delhi office's practice is just one example of cultural bias in the department.
"We frequently hear of decisions being made by (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) where religious and cultural understandings are completely misguided," said Liberal critic MP Omar Alghabra (Mississauga-Erindale).
"I have seen cases of arranged marriages, for example, involving Canadians going to India to marry, but after arriving back being told by CIC officers in New Delhi that their spouse's immigration application has been denied."
A spokesperson for the department did not respond to the assertion.
A release from Immigration Minister Diane Finley yesterday said that the letter asking an applicant with the common name Singh to provide an additional surname to speed processing – and suggesting his application would not be processed otherwise – "does not reflect the policy of Canada's New Government, and I can assure you I have directed the department to ensure that this type of erroneous letter is not sent out again."
Alghabra said privacy issues forbid him from revealing the names or details of other culturally sensitive applications that were rejected. But he explained how the department often justifies that decision.
"In arranged marriage cases, for example, they say the people didn't know each other, the marriage happened too quickly, the photos were staged. It's an arranged marriage – of course they didn't know each other."
MP Ruby Dhalla (Liberal, Brampton-Springdale) said her office was flooded with complaints today after CIC's announcement that the policy would be dropped, but no one was willing to speak to the Star about the issue because they fear it might jeopardize future attempts by family members to immigrate or obtain visitor's visas.
"When you're dealing with CIC in New Delhi, if you challenge anything they'll put your file on the back burner. It's not easy dealing with them," said Brampton lawyer Harinder Gahir, who says he has taken on hundreds of immigration cases involving the office over the past seven years.
Alghabra says there is a widespread lack of cultural and religious awareness in the CIC department.
"Every application should be treated equally and with the same efficiency. This is not a party issue; I'm not trying to distance my party from this," he added, acknowledging the name policy began while the Liberals were in power. "It's a general lack of cultural awareness in the department."
When asked why, during her three years in office, she had never raised the issue in the House of Commons, Dhalla said it should have been raised. "I took the complaints directly to CIC."
That's the approach MP Navdeep Bains (Liberal-Mississauga-Brampton South) said he took when complaints were brought to him over the past two years.
"I dealt with the complaints ... on a case-by-case basis. A letter was sent to senior CIC officials on behalf of each constituent. Our letter stated that the name does have religious and historical significance."
26 July 2007
Immigration Canada says a misunderstanding is at the root of the recent uproar over a supposed federal policy requiring would-be Sikh immigrants to change their names.
The Times of India wrote yesterday that Tarvinder Kaur, a Calgary woman awaiting her husband Jaspal Singh's arrival in Canada, learned that his application for permanent residency had been delayed for more than a month because of his last name.
Singh received a letter dated May 17, 2007, from the Canadian high commission in New Delhi saying, ''The name Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada.''
In the Sikh religion, all women were given the last name Kaur and men the last name Singh, to represent the abolition of class and caste inequalities in Indian society.
World Sikh Organization Canada president Gurpreet Singh Bal says requesting Sikh immigrants to change their names is "offensive."
"It also flies in the face of everything the Canadian Charter stands for and we as Canadians value. The policy needs to change so that Sikhs with the surnames Singh and Kaur are treated fairly and with dignity like all others in our society."
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Karen Shadd-Evelyn said yesterday, however, that changing one's name "is not a mandatory requirement for immigration to Canada."
She told various media outlets that the letter sent to the Calgary woman was "poorly worded" and does not reflect the government's policy.
Shadd-Evelyn noted a high volume of applications at Canada's New Delhi visa office are from persons named Singh or Kaur. She said that offering an alternate family name benefits permanent resident applicants "by ensuring fewer misfiled or mismailed pieces of correspondence, as well as fewer incidents of mistaken identity."
An immigrations official said yesterday that the policy to request an alternate name was put in place 10 years ago for the sake of efficiency.
Montrealer Raj Preet Kaur, 25, objected to the policy. "It's not just a name, it's part of who we are, part of our identity as a community."
She explained that many people have other last names in addition to Kaur and Singh, but many only use one last name.
"It should be up to people to decide what their last name is," said Kaur, who attends the Guru Nanak Darbar Temple in LaSalle. "They shouldn't change their names if they are afraid."
Jasbeer Singh, spokesperson for the World Sikh Organization, also objected to the policy.
"It is not fair to ask people to change their names," Singh said. "My name is a part of me, my personality, my identity. To say that it is too common and ask me to change it is an assault on my rights, my religion."
"Today, they have singled out Singh and Kaur. Tomorrow, they may dislike Mohammed and how soon before names such as Lee or Smith are targeted?"
Websites for Sikhs worldwide are posting the email addresses and telephone numbers of Canadian high commissions around the world, urging them to complain about the policy.
In Montreal, Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), said his organization became aware of the policy recently, but has not received specific complaints. "We have not had anyone expressing concern about it," he said. "Only a few people inquiring about it."
Niemi's group takes on human rights issues, both by engaging in public education and by sponsoring court challenges.
There are about 278,000 Sikhs in Canada, double the number a decade ago, but they represent only about 0.5 per cent of the overall religious mix in Canada.
Published: Friday, July 27, 2007
UNITED NATIONS -- An international conference focused on the plight of millions of Iraqis who've fled the violence in their country said Thursday the world must do more to help -- but added most of them should give up hope of being permanently resettled in other countries.
While Jordan, Syria and Iraq complained the West had abandoned them to deal with the bulk of the massive flight, delegates to the day-long session in Amman, Jordan, issued a communique that suggested little would change.
"The real and effective solution to the problem of the Iraqis in host countries is their return to their country, Iraq," said the participants, who included the United Nations, Iraq and its neighbours, and major powers such as the United States, the European Union and Japan.
The UN refugee agency says more than two million of Iraq's 26 million people are in refugee camps in Syria and Jordan, while the advocacy group Refugees International says "most ... are determined to be resettled to Europe or North America."
But the Amman communique said key to their future would be "a political process leading to national reconciliation, in which all political, religious and ethnic groups take part."
With 1.4 million Iraqis in camps in Syria, Milad Atiya, Syrian ambassador to Jordan and head of his country's delegation, said the United States in particular should be doing more to relieve the burden because "its policy led the plight (they) are currently in."
The 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan, meanwhile, are costing the desert kingdom $1 billion US a year, said Mukheimar Abu-Jamous, Secretary-General of the Jordanian Interior Ministry. He urged the West to "rise to their obligation" and re-settle the largest possible number of the refugees.
The UN says the scale of the exodus is the biggest the Middle East has seen since the population shifts of mainly Palestinians at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948. But it will screen just 150,000 Iraqis this year for possible permanent resettlement - and pick only 20,000 of them.
The United States has pledged to take 7,000 of that group, while Canada -- which says it was not invited to the Amman conference -- will take 1,400.
The UN says more people than ever are fleeing the violence and in addition to 50,000 Iraqis actually leaving the country each month, some two million have fled their homes to take refuge elsewhere inside its borders.
But in a separate statement from its base in Geneva, the refugee agency charged Turkey -- an Iraq neighbour that doesn't settle refugees, but generally allows asylum seekers time to find an alternative country to take them -- had forcibly returned 135 people to Iraq.
"We urge all countries to re-settle as quickly as possible the numbers of people they have pledged to take," said Jahanshah Assadi, the agency's representative in Canada.
In the three years following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, Canada admitted 2,821 Iraqi refugees for permanent residency -- an average of 940 a year. In 2002, the last full year of Saddam's rule, Canada admitted 1,067.
Amman delegates issued an appeal for more funds to improve services in the camps, especially in the areas of health and education.
At a UN-hosted conference in Geneva in April, Canada answered a similar appeal with a pledge of $2.5 million beyond its regular annual funding for the refugee agency's programs.
Chilliwack, British Columbia, July 27, 2007 -- The
Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety,
today congratulated the first 39 Canada Border
Services Agency (CBSA) officers in Canada to graduate
from the CBSA’s firearms training program. The
graduates, who attended training in both Ottawa and
Chilliwack, will be deployed to ports of entry
throughout the country.
As part of a plan to enhance safety and strengthen
security at Canada’s border, Prime Minister Stephen
Harper announced funding in August 2006 for firearms
training for CBSA officers at land and marine ports of
entry, as well as for officers who perform enforcement
functions within Canada. This includes the 400 new
permanent CBSA officers who will be hired, trained and
equipped in order to eliminate work-alone situations.
“Canada’s New Government is taking action to
strengthen our border security, and that starts with
giving our CBSA officers the tools and resources they
need to protect our border and keep our communities
safe,” said Minister Day. “Now that the firearms
training program is underway, we expect to have more
than 100 officers deployed throughout the country by
the end of August.”
"This is a long awaited day. Through its arming and
doubling-up of single-person shift initiatives, this
government has done more to enhance officer and public
safety than many previous governments combined, and
for this we applaud it," said Ron Moran, President of
Customs Excise Union Douanes Accise (CEUDA).
The firearms training program provides training to
CBSA officers on determining various levels of threats
and risks, and responding to situations through
simulation exercises. The next classes are scheduled
to begin on August 13, 2007, at RCMP facilities in
Ottawa and Chilliwack.
Canada’s New Government is committed to ensuring that
the border is protected from those who threaten the
security of Canada, while ensuring that legitimate
commerce or travel is not delayed.
For media information:
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Stockwell Day
Minister of Public Safety
Arming of CBSA Officers
The 2006 federal budget provided the Canada Border
Services Agency (CBSA) with $101 million over two
years to begin the process of providing border
services officers with firearms. Approximately 4,800
CBSA officers at land and marine ports of entry as
well as inland enforcement officers will be trained
and equipped with firearms. Fully trained and armed
officers will begin to be deployed at the end of July
2007. By March 31, 2008, between 250 and 300 armed
officers will have been deployed. Full implementation
of this initiative is expected to take place over a
period of 10 years.
Why is the Government arming CBSA officers?
To ensure Canada’s borders are secure, the Government
must ensure that those who guard our borders are
themselves secure. Providing CBSA officers with
firearms and training, and ensuring that work-alone
situations are eliminated, will help achieve this
goal. Arming CBSA officers will improve their
effectiveness at the border by enabling them to pursue
enforcement activities to a greater extent before
involving police agencies.
CBSA officers who will be armed need to have
successfully completed the three-week training program
that reflects the CBSA’s specific working conditions.
Firearms training is more than learning how to shoot —
it involves incorporating firearms into the use of
force decision-making and simulation exercises in
practical CBSA situations. Training is taking place at
RCMP facilities in Ottawa and Chilliwack. The next
classes are scheduled to begin on August 13. By the
end of August, more than 100 officers will have been
deployed throughout the country. In addition to the
current and potential additional capacity at the RCMP
Ottawa and Chilliwack facilities, the CBSA is looking
for additional government or private sector facilities
that could be used until construction is completed at
the CBSA Learning Centre in Rigaud, Québec.
Safety at the border
The introduction of firearms is a serious and complex
undertaking. The CBSA has put in place a number of
measures to ensure the safety of its officers, the
travelling public and border communities. These
include a comprehensive arming training program, a
rigorous screening process, and detailed policies and
procedures to guide and support border services
officers. This initiative is being implemented safely,
professionally and without undue delay.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was founded
in March 2005 at a summit of the Heads of State of Canada, the US, and
Mexico. SPP is not an official treaty; therefore it has been able to
escape any public scrutiny. The major drive behind the SPP is a CEO-based
organization, which is the only official advisory group to governments on
the SPP. The SPP is a NAFTA-plus-Homeland-Security model and will involve
the harmonization of over 300 areas of regulation. On August 20th Bush,
Harper, and Calderon are meeting in Montebello, Quebec at a SPP Summit.
Resist the SPP on this continental day of action.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | 5:46 PM CT
A group of migrant farm workers in Portage la Prairie, Man., has
become unionized following a Manitoba Labour Board decision
The certification means that dozens of workers at Mayfair Farms,
a fruit and vegetable farm, are the first unionized group of foreign
farm workers in Canada.
The United Food and Commercial Workers applied for certification
at Mayfair Farms in September 2006.
The union said it had signed up more than 65 per cent of the 59
workers, which under Manitoba law entitles the group to automatic
The company argued the workers were not legally employees
under the Labour Relations Act, so collective bargaining rights
would not apply to them.
In October, 43 of the workers signed statements saying they
were misled by the union and did not want to join.
In its decision, the Labour Relations Board said their objections
were "untimely" and "did not allege misconduct," so they had no
further standing at the hearing.
The five-page decision says the board determined the act did
apply to the workers and Mayfair Farms was their employer.
UFCW officials said Tuesday the union will now begin bargaining
for a collective agreement for the workers, most of whom are from
About 18,000 foreign agricultural workers come to Canada every
year under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.
About 1,000 work in Manitoba.
«Nous sommes une minorité doublement visible. À cause de notre couleur de peau, mais aussi de notre turban, lance Baljit S. Chadha, président de Balcorp International. Pour les plus jeunes, cela rend l'intégration doublement plus difficile.»Selon M. Chadha, cela explique - en partie - pourquoi de plus en plus de jeunes sikhs laissent tomber le turban. Ce geste leur permet d'éviter le rejet et de mieux «gérer» les pressions extérieures dans la société d'accueil. Bref, ils veulent «fitter».
Dans la communauté sikhe de Montréal, la question de la «déturbanisation» est très présente. Le fils de 21 ans de M. Chadha porte toujours le turban. Mais s'il exprimait son désir de l'abandonner, qui pourrait l'en empêcher ?
«Nous avons éduqué nos enfants en les informant sur le sikhisme. Et nous espérons qu'ils vont maintenir cette tradition. Mais s'ils veulent en sortir, nous ne les arrêterons pas. Peut-être sommes-nous plus libéraux que d'autres...»
Selon les estimations de M. Chadha, seulement 25 % des sikhs montréalais porteraient le turban. Ce sont les plus traditionalistes.
Cette tendance n'est pas seulement mue par un désir d'intégration. Elle participe d'un phénomène générationnel autrement plus vaste, croit M. Chadha.
Fait intéressant : même en Inde, le phénomène prend de l'ampleur. Selon un récent article du New York Times, 40 % des hommes sikhs ne porteraient plus le turban, comparativement à 10 % il y a 50 ans. Pour contrer cette désaffection - et rallumer la flamme sikhe - certains promoteurs organisent désormais des concours de beauté pour turbans. Un événement semblable s'est même tenu il y a trois semaines dans la Gurdwara de LaSalle.
Pourra-t-on jamais renverser la tendance?
«C'est préoccupant, mais il ne faut pas s'alarmer, précise M. Chadha. Il y a toujours un moment où les jeunes reviennent vers la spiritualité».
Visiblement en colère, le résident permanent d'origine marocaine Adil Charkaoui a appelé, vendredi, lors d'une conférence de presse, les autorités canadiennes à enquêter sur la divulgation par le quotidien La Presse d'un document des services secrets l'incriminant.
La Presse a en effet dévoilé, vendredi, le contenu d'un document secret envoyé à ses journalistes par une source anonyme et dont un segment accuse Adil Charkaoui d'avoir discuté, le 25 juin 2000, du détournement d'un avion de ligne en partance de Montréal.
Ces informations auraient été utilisées par le Service canadien du renseignement de sécurité (SCRS) pour justifier auprès d'Ottawa, trois ans plus tard, en 2003, l'émission d'un certificat de sécurité à l'encontre de M. Charkaoui.
Pour M. Charkaoui et ses avocats, il ne fait aucun doute que les auteurs de la fuite d'information ont violé la loi canadienne en divulguant des informations secrètes. M. Charkaoui estime faire les frais de l'impopularité de la mission canadienne en Afghanistan, les autorités cherchant, selon lui, à l'incriminer pour prouver l'existence de la menace terroriste au pays.
Ainsi, selon un document secret intitulé « Former Terrorist Training Camps in Afghanistan: Major Sites and Assessment » et obtenu par La Presse, Adil Charkaoui aurait planifié un acte terroriste avec un autre individu soupçonné d'avoir fréquenté des camps d'entraînement d'Al-Qaïda un an auparavant, Hashim Tahir.
Le SCRS soutient que les deux hommes « planifiaient un attentat terroriste en prenant possession d'un avion en partance de Montréal vers une destination inconnue à l'étranger, possiblement en Europe, selon un modus operandi comparable à celui qui a été utilisé lors des multiples attentats terroristes du 11 septembre 2001 ».
Le document obtenu par La Presse ne précise cependant pas si les autorités canadiennes sont bel et bien en possession d'un quelconque enregistrement incriminant, pas plus, en fait, qu'il n'est fait mention de la place que prend ce même document dans l'ensemble de la preuve déposée en secret contre Adil Charkaoui.
Une entrevue avec Adil Charkaoui
Écoutez notre entrevue réalisée avec Adil Charkaoui en décembre 2005, au moment où il sortait de prison.
M. Charkaoui, qui a passé 21 mois en prison sous le coup d'un certificat de sécurité et qui, depuis février 2005, doit se plier à de strictes conditions de remises en liberté, nie catégoriquement avoir planifié un détournement d'avion.
Joint par La Presse, le ressortissant marocain estime que le document est une atteinte grave à sa réputation et qu'une telle divulgation d'informations est « en dehors des règles d'usage de la Cour fédérale et de la Commission d'accès à l'information ».
Les services secrets ont toujours refusé, prétextant la sécurité nationale, de détailler leurs accusations à l'encontre d'individus sous le coup d'un certificat de sécurité. Il appert que le document incriminant M. Charkaoui aurait été rédigé grâce à la collaboration des services secrets américains, britanniques, néo-zélandais et australiens. Ces pays sont tous membres, ainsi que le Canada, d'un important réseau mondial d'écoute électronique, nommé Echelon.
Réaction de Stephen Harper
En conférence de presse, dans le cadre de son bilan de session, le premier ministre Stephen Harper a déclaré qu'il ne ferait pas de commentaire sur un cas qui est déjà devant les tribunaux, comme celui d'Adil Charkaoui. « Les questions sont bien sérieuses », s'est-il contenté de dire.
Le principe même des certificats de sécurité est très contesté au Canada. Ainsi, la Cour suprême a donné à Ottawa, en mai dernier, un an pour revoir la législation à ce propos afin de la rendre conforme au droit canadien.
Le premier ministre Harper a promis vendredi que le gouvernement présenterait des modifications aux certificats de sécurité lors de la rentrée parlementaire de l'automne.
Le SCRS a également fait part de son refus de commenter l'affaire. « Le Service prend toute allégation concernant une fuite possible de documents au sérieux, et n'excuse jamais la divulgation non autorisée d'information. En règle générale, le Service ne fait aucun commentaire sur les sujets opérationnels », indique une déclaration écrite du SCRS.
The Siraj Family, members of DRUM-Desis Rising Up and Moving celebrate….
VICTORY FOR A MUSLIM FAMILY TARGETED BY HOMELAND SECURITY as father is RELEASED from Detention!! THE FIGHT FOR IMMIGRANT JUSTICE CONTINUES…
Another chapter in a nightmare that has torn up a loving Muslim family caught up in the U.S. "War on Terror" brings a VICTORY. With their entire family detained by the US government in various facilities, the father of the Siraj family was released last week. The entire Siraj family was arrested in January---just hours after their 24 year old son, Matin, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for false terrorism charges (based on an NYPD-paid informant), Matin's mother, father and sister were violently arrested in their homes by more than a dozen ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers of the Dept. of Homeland Security. The arrest and detention of the entire family was a clear intimidation tactic to silence a family speaking out against the US War on Terror's criminalization of South Asian, Muslim and Arab communities.
2 weeks after the family's detention, buoyed by community organizing by DRUM and countless supporters in solidarity with the family (including hundreds of letters of support to ICE!), the mother and sister were released, albeit on $35,000 bond. The community has continued to support and organize in support of the family and last week, the father was finally released, after languishing in jail for 6 months.
Mr. Siraj, an elderly man with several medical conditions including a hearing impairment, was released under an intensive governmental supervision unofficially known as the ankle bracelet program (involving electronic surveillance)
We know that Siraj's release, while a victory for the family and a testament to the power of organizing, also opens up a detention bed for one more and leaves behind over 20,000 of our immigrant brothers or sisters to languish in private detention centers and county jails around the country. Our work must continue…as Congress continues to propose bills that will most likely deepen the crisis for communities, particularly through increasing detention and deportation—we must keep up the fight for legalization without compromising away raids, surveillance, due process, detention and deportation.
SUPPORT THE FAMILY: The family is facing over $50,000 in legal fees; bond debt as well as trying to send their daughter to community college—financial support is desperately needed. Make checks out to: "Shaheena Parveen Siraj". Mail donations to DRUM at: P.O. Box 720187, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Again, thank you for your incredible support as we continue fighting for this family's freedom and the larger political attack on our communities.
In San Diego County, California, a firestorm has erupted over plans to build a Blackwater mercenary training camp in the hills behind Potrero, a remote area east of the city. The residents of San Diego are opposing the idea on the grounds that firing ranges are noisy and mercenaries would be undesirable neighbors. So far the controversy has been a localized, "not in my backyard," type of debate involving planning commissions and citizen's action groups.
Americans tend to think in an American way, and therefore nobody seems to have noticed that the location of this camp is right on the US-Mexico border, just a few miles from Tecate.
From an international perspective, there are a number of geopolitical reasons that could explain why this border location was selected. This is probably not merely an issue for the local planning commission, given that the idea of mercenaries along the border has broader international implications.
Blackwater USA is a private army based in Louisiana that has received billions of dollars in US government contracts to assist with the Iraq war. These "contractors" are highly trained ex-military specialists, many of whom come from foreign countries with poor human rights records.
Blackwater, at its website, identifies itself as "... not simply a 'private security company.' We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions."
The presence of Blackwater in Iraq has generated controversy over the concept of an "outsourced" war, using mercenaries instead of regular US troops. The mercenaries do not answer to US military commanders, their conduct is not governed by the Geneva Convention, and they answer only to the people who are signing their paychecks.
Critics often compare them to the Nazi brownshirts.
A Blackwater camp on the border may be a covert attempt to militarize the border without going through congressional oversight or public debate. A so-called "training camp" could probably also function as an operational base. Perhaps Blackwater will obtain government contracts to patrol the border, gradually edging out US agents and putting border security into the hands of a private army away from public scrutiny.
And Blackwater could run immigrant detention camps using the same methods they use in the Middle East. Even if this is not the plan, the Mexicans would have good reason to suspect this motivation.
The proposed training camp is located near international drug supply routes controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel. The remote, mountainous terrain is like Afghanistan, where Blackwater has years of experience running covert operations.
Six miles from the proposed Blackwater camp, northern Mexico has a serious problem with "Men in Black" who coincidentally look, dress, and act just like the Blackwater people. In Mexico, the Men in Black are kidnappers, corrupt police officers, fake federal agents, or Zetas, a narco-paramilitary group. Although Americans may still be swallowing the argument that Blackwater is a "military auxiliary" outfit, the Mexicans are not fooled about who the Men in Black are, what they do, and who they work for. That these same people are now camped out on the US border, or are somehow involved in border enforcement, will lack credibility in Mexico.
Since the Iraq war, business at Blackwater has been booming, which is why they need the new "Blackwater West" facility. Most of Blackwater's contracts come from the US government, at least those that are publicly disclosed. But, Blackwater is a private army that is available to run "corporate security" missions for anyone that can afford it. This suggests another possible motivation for the border location: to serve emerging markets in northern Mexico.
There are surely plenty of possible clients with money in the Baja California area who need special operations. Since Blackwater personnel look just like the Mexican Men in Black, they should have no trouble blending in.
Another possible reason for the border location is the potential to perform "extraordinary renditions" into Mexico. "Extraordinary renditions" is a euphemism for off-the-record prisoner processing, the subjects of which are known in Latin America as "los desaparecidos" ("the disappeared"). Blackwater conducts extraordinary renditions in the Middle East, quietly transferring prisoners to third countries where interrogation techniques are not monitored. From their new border location, Blackwater could perform extraordinary renditions into northern Mexico far away from prying eyes.
Blackwater has said that the reason for the site selection is to be close to the San Diego area, where many branches of the US military need extra training. Still, the location so close to the US-Mexico border raises international issues that local San Diego citizen's groups are not aware of and generally do not think about. Americans should consider the possible international dimensions, and responsible Mexican citizens should evaluate the potential impact of this camp on their own country.
As well, if Mexicans were more informed about this issue, the specter of mercenaries along the border has the potential to create an international controversy.
By KATE GURNETT, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, June 19, 2007
ALBANY -- When Linda Malenge was arrested on an Amtrak train at the northern U.S. border last year -- with phony Canadian and Greek passports and no U.S. visa -- she'd lost more than her proper ID.
Her father was dead, murdered at home by government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her brother was missing, presumed killed. Her husband had already escaped to the United States.
A civil war was raging in her homeland, claiming 4 million lives. In October 2005, five men broke into Malenge's house and fractured her ankle. They sought her uncle-in-law, a bodyguard to late president Laurent Kabila. If we don't find him, they told her, we'll be back for you.
"The only thought in my head was to flee," Malenge said in a telephone interview last week. "Things were quickly unraveling." Seeking a passport could have prompted her arrest or worse. She took her 5-year-old son to a safe location and then fled the country.
This week, the 24-year-old mother will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Albany for using a forged passport to cross the U.S. border. Ultimately, she could be deported to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where executions, unexplained disappearances and government torture still occur.
Her case raises questions about the efficacy of the United States as a safe haven for refugees of war and terror. It reflects a dilemma faced by other exiles who use fake documents to escape violence: Are they refugees or criminals?
The U.S. attorney's office in Albany says Malenge is a criminal. Prosecutors won felony convictions against her and another woman, Ramatulai Barry of Guinea. Both Barry and her husband were imprisoned and tortured in Guinea and Barry was raped by guards before she escaped, court records state. Barry, 29, was arrested last September while crossing the border at Champlain with a false passport. She, too, was trying to join her husband, who is in New York City.
Two federal judges -- Judge Gary Sharpe and Judge Thomas McAvoy -- agreed, finding they violated U.S. law.
But their attorney, federal public defender Gene Primomo, says he may appeal. Both women are protected by the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention and the subsequent 1967 Protocol on refugees, he argues. That international law protects asylum-seekers who commit illegal acts "consistent with traveling as a refugee," such as using false documents, Primomo says. And it also allows refugees to make a political asylum claim before they are prosecuted for illegal entry.
"Blindly prosecuting these women in light of their circumstances is a travesty and a waste of government resources," Primomo said. He had asked the U.S. government to send the women to immigration court while retaining the right to prosecute after the asylum issue was decided.
Malenge "is the poster child for what this treaty is supposed to do," Primomo said.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe rejected Primomo's argument, saying the treaty doesn't preclude prosecution, though it advocates restraint. Malenge can still apply for asylum, Sharpe said.
Malenge's circumstances don't "excuse the deception she employed at the border," Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Grogan said in court papers. Before getting any "immigration benefits . . . she must first account for the conduct that she displayed at the border."
Both sides say Malenge and Barry are rarities -- two women trying to join their husbands by sneaking in before requesting asylum -- among the many people nabbed for falsifying documents at the border.
Many people request asylum at the border without trying to enter illegally, Grogan said. "We hear of all kinds of terrible situations and we know there are desperate people," he added. "But it doesn't excuse criminal conduct."
Because such cases are rare, Primomo said, it would be easy to divert them to federal immigration court, where deportation is the toughest penalty, rather than federal criminal court. "Very few people arrested at the border claim they are political refugees. When it comes up, it's fairly obvious that criminal prosecution is unnecessary and should be prohibited or delayed," he said.
While the women could face prison time, it is likely that Malenge will be sentenced to time served -- five months in Washington County Jail -- Primomo said. But he worries that the felony conviction could prejudice her asylum case.
Barry's sentencing is set for Sept. 10 in Albany federal court. Both Malenge and Barry are seeking asylum in immigration court.
What's likely to happen there is anyone's guess.
A recent Georgetown University study of 140,000 immigration court decisions found huge disparities in asylum judgments. Colombians, for example, had an 88 percent chance of winning asylum from one Miami judge, but a 5 percent chance from another in the same court. Someone fleeing persecution in China would find a 75 percent chance of approval in Orlando, Fla., but a mere 7 percent chance in Atlanta, Ga. Asylum is granted 44 percent more often by female immigration judges, according to the study.
The controversial immigration proposals debated in Congress last week would make asylum applicants convicted of using some fake passports ineligible for asylum, according to Philip Schrag, who directs the asylum law clinic at Georgetown University and headed the study with two other law professors.
Many countries refuse to issue passports to political or religious dissidents, leaving them to use doctored documents, Schrag says. People fleeing aren't likely to try to get the proper paperwork, a reality reflected in the United Nations protocol.
A lack of legal alternatives for refugees threatens "the protection that America offers to people who flee their homelands to escape persecution by oppressive governments," Schrag wrote in a May column in The Washington Post.
Malenge said she remains hopeful. But she's surprised by how few Americans seem to comprehend the plight of refugees.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, "human rights do not exist at all," she said. "There is so, so, so much injustice. Police protecting you? That does not exist. Anyone could be a killer, including the police. There is no security. I know so many families that had to flee."
pays a cause des oppressions politiques et économiques?
Voyez les perpectives de Vox Sambou via son nouveau video clip BATO
(Bateau). Dirigé par David Smith, BATO raconte l'histoire d'un jeune
haitien quittant son pays et sa famille en espérant de trouver une vie
meilleur a Miami.
Bato est tres bien recu dans le milieu médiatique et la population en
Haiti et depuis il est en rotation sur plusieurs stations de radios et
des chaines de télévisons en Haiti.
Vox Sambou est basé a Montréal.
Pour voir le vidéo:
Sandra M. Kenley was returning home from her native Barbados in 2005 when she was swept into the United States’ fastest-growing form of incarceration, immigration detention.
Seven weeks later, Ms. Kenley died in a rural Virginia jail, where she had complained of not receiving medicine for high blood pressure. She was one of 62 immigrants to die in administrative custody since 2004, according to a new tally by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that counted many more deaths than the 20 previously known.
No government body is charged with accounting for deaths in immigration detention, a patchwork of county jails, privately run prisons and federal facilities where more than 27,500 people who are not American citizens are held on any given day while the government decides whether to deport them.
Getting details about those who die in custody is a difficult undertaking left to family members, advocacy groups and lawyers.
But as the immigration detention system balloons to meet demands for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, deaths in custody — and the secrecy and confusion around them — are drawing increased scrutiny from lawmakers and from government investigators.
Spurred by bipartisan reports of abuses in detention, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the proposed immigration bill that would establish an office of detention oversight within the Department of Homeland Security. Detention capacity would grow by 20,000 beds, or 73 percent, under the bill, which is expected to be debated again today in the Senate.
Complaints focus on a lack of independent oversight and failures to enforce standards for medical care, suicide prevention and access to legal help.
The inspector general in the Department of Homeland Security recently announced a “special review” of two deaths, including that of a Korean woman at a privately run detention center in Albuquerque. Fellow detainees told a lawyer that the woman, Young Sook Kim, had pleaded for medical care for weeks, but received scant attention until her eyes yellowed and she stopped eating.
Ms. Kim died of pancreatic cancer in federal custody on Sept. 11, 2005, a day after she was taken to a hospital.
Some of the sharpest criticism of the troubled system has come from officials at one of the largest detention centers in the country, York County Prison in Pennsylvania.
“The Department of Homeland Security has made it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the constitutional requirements of providing adequate health care to inmates that have a serious need for that care,” the York County Prison’s warden, Thomas Hogan, wrote in a court affidavit last year.
Officials with the immigration agency say that some deaths are inevitable, and that sufficient outside scrutiny comes from local medical examiners. Detention expanded by more than 32 percent last year, and the average length of stay was cut to 35 days from 89, said Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman.
“We spend $98 million annually to provide medical care for people in our custody,” Ms. Zuieback said. “Anybody who violates our national immigration law is going to get the same treatment by I.C.E. regardless of their medical condition.”
She declined to release information about the 62 detention deaths since 2004, including names, dates, locations or causes.
Twenty deaths were reported over the same period in a recent briefing paper for the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants from a list compiled by civil liberties lawyers from reports by relatives, advocates and the news media.
Detention standards were adopted by the immigration agency in 2000, but are not legally enforceable, unlike rules for the treatment of criminal inmates. The Department of Homeland Security has resisted efforts by the American Bar Association to turns the standards into regulations, saying that rulemaking would reduce the agency’s flexibility.
“The deaths bring forward in the worst way the systemwide problems,” said Sunita Patel, a lawyer for Legal Aid who prepared the United Nations briefing paper.
Some advocates of curbs on immigration say the solution is quicker deportations.
“The taxpayer cannot be expected to underwrite the elaborate detention facilities that some of these organizations want,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
In the case of Ms. Kenley, a legal permanent resident of the United States for more than 30 years, detention interrupted her medical care for high blood pressure, a fibroid tumor and uterine bleeding. An autopsy attributed her death to an enlarged heart from chronic hypertensive disease. But a report by emergency medical services said that she had fallen from a top bunk, and that a cellmate had pounded on the door for 20 minutes before guards responded.
Ms. Kenley’s sister, June Everett, said her questions had gone unanswered.
“How did my sister die?” she asked, as Ms. Kenley’s daughter, Nicole, wept. “It’s a whole set of confusion, so who knows, really? And I would like to know.”
Ms. Kenley had been traveling with her 1-year-old granddaughter when she arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, records show, and she was ordered to return without the baby to discuss two old misdemeanor drug convictions that had surfaced in an airport database.
She obeyed. A transcript shows she admitted a conviction for drug possession in 1984 and one in 2002 for trying to buy a small amount of cocaine. She described a life derailed by drug addiction after 11 years of working in a newspaper mailroom.
“I turned my life around,” Ms. Kenley told the immigration inspector, pointing to three drug-free years after probation and treatment, completion of a nursing course, and legal custody of the granddaughter, Nakita. She also showed that she was taking blood pressure medication and was scheduled for surgery.
The inspector arrested her, invoking the law: two drug-related convictions made her subject to exclusion from the United States.
“I am barely living,” Ms. Kenley later wrote her sister from Pamunkey Regional Jail, in Hanover, Va., “trying to hold on until you get a lawyer to help me.”
She died at Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Va.
Her only court appearances were by video monitor, waiting for a volunteer lawyer who never came.
Even detainees with legal counsel sometimes do not survive.
Abdoulai Sall, 50, a Guinea-born taxi cab mechanic in Washington with no criminal record, died in detention last December.
Mr. Sall, whose boss of 17 years had sponsored him for a green card, was at an immigration interview with a lawyer, Paul S. Allen, when he was unexpectedly arrested on an old deportation order — part of a legal tangle left when another lawyer abandoned his case in the 1990s, Mr. Allen said.
The case file shows that Mr. Allen’s office urged medical intervention for Mr. Sall, who had been taking medication for a serious kidney ailment at the time of his arrest. While in detention at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Va. he complained that he was not getting his medication and that his symptoms were worsening in a barracks-style unit.
Fellow detainees described Mr. Sall huddling next to the unit dryer for warmth, barely able to walk. “The medical staff told him they don’t have what he needs because immigration don’t pay enough money,” one detainee wrote.
The accusation was denied by Lou Barlow, the jail’s superintendent, who said Mr. Sall had received good care, including a visit to the local emergency room.
“We’ve never done anything unethical, illegal or immoral,” Mr. Barlow said.
Autopsy results are still pending.
Some deaths, like Ms. Kim’s, come to light well after the fact. Ms. Kim, a cook of about 60, was swept up in a raid on a massage parlor and detained for a month at the Regional Correctional Center in Albuquerque, a county prison operated by the Cornell Companies, a publicly traded corporation.
Months after her death, a lawyer in Santa Fe, N.M., Brandt Milstein, learned about the case from other Korean detainees, since deported. Mr. Milstein said that under New Mexico law, the death should have been reviewed by the state’s medical inspector, but officials had not reported it as a death in custody.
About two weeks ago — nearly two years after Ms. Kim died — the inspector general’s office called him, Mr. Milstein said. The investigation is now under way.
By CHRISTOPHER MASON and JULIA PRESTON
TORONTO, June 26 — With an advanced degree in business management from a university in India and impeccable English, Salman Kureishy is precisely the type of foreigner that Canada’s merit-based immigration system was designed to attract.
Yet eight years went by from the time Mr. Kureishy passed his first Canadian immigration test until he moved from India to Canada. Then he had to endure nine months of bureaucratic delays before landing a job in his field in March.
Mr. Kureishy’s experience — and that of Canada’s immigration system — offers a cautionary tale for the United States. Mr. Kureishy came to this country under a system Canada pioneered in the 1960s that favors highly skilled foreigners, by assigning points for education and work experience and accepting those who earn high scores.
A similar point system for the United States is proposed in the immigration bill that bounced back to life on Tuesday, when the Senate reversed a previous stand and brought the bill back to the floor. The vote did not guarantee passage of the bill, which calls for the biggest changes in immigration law in more than 20 years.
The point system has helped Canada compete with the United States and other Western powers for highly educated workers, the most coveted immigrants in high-tech and other cutting-edge industries. But in recent years, immigration lawyers and labor market analysts say, the Canadian system has become an immovable beast, with a backlog of more than 800,000 applications and waits of four years or more.
The system’s bias toward the educated has left some industries crying out for skilled blue-collar workers, especially in western Canada where Alberta’s busy oil fields have generated an economic boom. Studies by the Alberta government show the province could be short by as many as 100,000 workers over the next decade.
In response, some Canadian employers are sidestepping the point system and relying instead on a program initiated in 1998 that allows provincial governments to hand-pick some immigrant workers, and on temporary foreign-worker permits.
“The points system is so inflexible,” said Herman Van Reekum, an immigration consultant in Calgary who helps Alberta employers find workers. “We need low-skill workers and trades workers here, and those people have no hope under the points system.”
Canada accepts about 250,000 immigrants each year, more than doubling the per-capita rate of immigration in the United States, census figures from both countries show. Nearly two-thirds of Canada’s population growth comes from immigrants, according to the 2006 census, compared with the United States, where about 43 percent of the population growth comes from immigration. Approximately half of Canada’s immigrants come through the point system.
Under Canada’s system, 67 points on a 100-point test is a passing score. In addition to education and work experience, aspiring immigrants earn high points for their command of languages and for being between 21 and 49 years old. In the United States, the Senate bill would grant higher points for advanced education, English proficiency and skills in technology and other fields that are in demand. Lower points would be given for the family ties that have been the basic stepping stones of the American immigration system for four decades.
Part of the backlog in Canada can be traced to a provision in the Canadian system that allows highly skilled foreigners to apply to immigrate even if they do not have a job offer. Similarly, the Senate bill would not require merit system applicants to have job offers in the United States, although it would grant additional points to those who do.
Without an employment requirement, Canada has been deluged with applications. In testimony in May before an immigration subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives, Howard Greenberg, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, compared the Canadian system to a bathtub with an open faucet and a clogged drain. “It is not surprising that Canada’s bathtub is overflowing,” Mr. Greenberg said.
Since applications are not screened first by employers, the government bears the burden and cost of assessing them. The system is often slow to evaluate the foreign education credentials and work experience of new immigrants and to direct them toward employers who need their skills, said Jeffrey Reitz, professor of immigration studies at the University of Toronto.
The problem has been acute in regulated professions like medicine, where a professional organization, the Medical Council of Canada, reviews foreign credentials of new immigrants. The group has had difficulty assessing how a degree earned in China or India stacks up against a similar degree from a university in Canada or the United States. Frustrated by delays, some doctors and other highly trained immigrants take jobs outside their fields just to make ends meet.
The sheer size of the Canadian point system, the complexity of its rules and its backlogs make it slow to adjust to shifts in the labor market, like the oil boom in Alberta.
“I am a university professor, and I can barely figure out the points system,” said Don J. DeVoretz, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who studies immigration systems. “Lawyers have books that are three feet thick explaining the system.”
The rush to develop the oil fields in northern Alberta has attracted oil companies from around the world, unleashing a surge of construction. Contractors say that often the only thing holding them back is a shortage of qualified workers.
Scott Burns, president of Burnco Rock Products in Calgary, a construction materials company with about 1,000 employees, said he had been able to meet his labor needs only by using temporary work permits. Mr. Burns hired 39 Filipinos for jobs in his concrete plants and plans to hire more. He said that many of the temporary workers had critically needed skills, but that they had no hope of immigrating permanently under the federal point system.
“The system is very much broken,” Mr. Burns said.
Mr. Kureishy, the immigrant from India, said he was drawn to Canada late in his career by its open society and what appeared to be strong interest in his professional abilities. But even though he waited eight years to immigrate, the equivalent of a doctoral degree in human resources development that he earned from Xavier Labor Relations Institute in India was not evaluated in Canada until he arrived here. During his first six months, Canadian employers had no formal comparison of his credentials to guide them.
Eventually, Mr. Kureishy, 55, found full-time work in his field, as a program manager assisting foreign professionals at Ryerson University in Toronto. “It was a long process, but I look at myself as fairly resilient,” Mr. Kureishy said.
He criticized Canada as providing little support to immigrants after they arrived.
“If you advertised for professors and one comes over and is driving a taxi,” he said, “that’s a problem.”