4 immigrants in Quebec immigration holding centre go on hunger strike amid COVID-19 outbreak
Published Saturday, March 28, 2020 2:50PM EDT Last Updated Saturday, March 28, 2020 3:01PM EDT
LAVAL -- Four men detained at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre north of Montreal continued a hunger strike for a fifth day Saturday in hopes of obtaining their release, as well as medical attention to reduce the risk of COVID-19 contamination.
In a video conference, a man from Senegal using the pseudonym of Abdoul to preserve his anonymity reiterated his commitment to continuing his hunger strike despite what he described as pressure and intimidation tactics by some of the centre's officials.
According to Abdoul, 30 people started the hunger strike, then that number was reduced to eight by Friday afternoon. Four other people have since ended the strike while on parole, he said.
Several Canadian rights organizations have expressed support for the four strikers. They noted that measures recommended by the government, such as social distancing, did not take into account the reality of detainees - whether in immigration holding centres, juvenile detention centres or prisons.
The situation in a prison south of Toronto was cited as an example to demonstrate the risks faced by these people. A correctional officer from an Etobicoke detention centre tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and an inmate's test was positive this week.
In Quebec, an inmate was found to be positive following a COVID-19 test at a Sherbrooke prison this week.
Abdoul, as well as organizations such as the League for Rights and Freedom and Solidarite Sans Frontieres is urging governments to act.
The Canada Border Services Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press on the situation at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 28, 2020.