Putting an end to one of the longest immigration detentions for Canada, Ebrahim Toure was freed by the Canadian Border Services Agency. He was held without charges by the Canadian immigration authorities for over six years, and his release from a facility in Toronto last month has prompted a renewed criticism of the system. Canada is one of the few countries in the world which still relies on an immigration detention system without any upper limit.
“It feels good to be out. I just want to go home and sit down,” Toure said in a statement. “It’s been six years since I’ve been outside – everything has changed.” He had originally arrived in Canada under a refugee status with a fraudulent passport. Detained in 2013, immigration officials believed that he was a flight risk before his hearings. During the course of his imprisonment, Toure was neither charged nor convicted of any crime in the country, and yet he was sent to a maximum security prison in Ontario for the first four and a half years of his imprisonment.
All the while, Ebrahim Toure’s lawyers fought the case saying that there was no evidence to prove that he was a flight risk and that he was being detained without any proof of being a risk to the public. However, the Canadian authorities maintained their classification of him being a high-risk case since he was convicted in the United States of America earlier for selling illegal DVDs.
Over the course of his detention, Toure went through 69 separate hearings and was always confined to a prison-like space. When a superior court judge in Ontario found that the detention was cruel and unusual in the prison, Toure was shifted to an immigration facility. His release at the end has brought about questions on the country’s immigration detention system. People have started to ask questions about the authority of the petitioner’s adjudicators, who do not have a legal background and yet have similar powers as that of a judge. Also, the detainees are poorly represented and there is quite a lot of stress placed on the testimony of the border officers.
“The community is elated that Ebrahim is finally free,” MacDonald Scott, a member of Toure’s legal team, said in a statement. “However, his situation points out the futility of a system that detains people for immigration purposes regardless of whether that purpose will ever be achieved.”