Many Children And Families Who Have Sought Immigration To Canada Are Being Detained
Although Canada has become a leader in admitting thousands of refugees in the past year, the treatment of those who have been denied refugee status is anything but welcoming. There is debate over whether or not Canada’s immigration procedures are violating both Canadian and international laws in the name of public safety.
Although concern for the safety of Canadian citizens is commendable, the treatment of immigrants who are denied entry into Canada is, by many accounts, appalling, especially when it comes to the treatment of children. In response to these cases, Canadian immigration advocates are speaking up about the poor treatment of those denied refugee status in Canada.
According to a recent National Post article, in the past four years, Canada has incarcerated an estimated 242 children per year in immigration detention centres. This is, however, simply the average number of formal foreign detainees, as it doesn’t take into account children born in Canada (who are, therefore, citizens) to parents who are denied refugee status. These Canadian children are detained to avoid leaving them alone or uncared for.
Ranging in age from newborns to teenagers, detained children suffer from separation with their parents during their detention. Frequently, these families are held because they are considered flight risks who may try to avoid deportation, fleeing the country prior to a trial or hearing that could determine their refugee status.
By many accounts, Immigration detention centres are run like prisons, with 6 AM breakfasts, a half hour of outdoor time, and other strict routines. One teen interviewed recalled being handcuffed whenever he left his family’s room. Contact with separated family members is restricted, and gifts of candy from visitors are confiscated.
These prison environments are devastating to the children living there. Their mental health is jeopardized, especially when they are separated from their parents.
Canada is working on alternatives to housing children in immigration detention centres. The government has invested money, and is looking for better options. In the meantime, children will continue to live in these detention centres, and suffer from life-long mental health issues as a result.