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Canada Detained migrants continue hunger strike over Ontario jail’s conditions

A man incarcerated for seven years while waiting to be deported is among a group that has launched a hunger strike to protest against conditions at an Ontario jail.

Nearly 200 migrants being held at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., reportedly launched a hunger strike in September, according to an activist group that is publicizing their case. They were upset about being moved to the jail, which for many is considerably farther from their friends and family in the Toronto area, their supporters say.

The strikers are also trying to draw attention to the rules governing immigration detention in Canada. Detainees awaiting deportation, typically those who have been deemed a danger to the public or unlikely to attend their own hearings, can be jailed indefinitely, subject to regular 30-day review hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board. Detainees who can't be deported, either because their home countries won't accept them or won't issue travel documents, can end up in jail for months and years as they await a resolution to their case.

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"We can hold people as long as we want to. It flies in the face of international law and the laws of countries similar to us, like the U.S. and U.K.," said Macdonald Scott, an immigration consultant at Carranza LLP who represents two men being held at the jail.

The detainees called a pause to their action in late September, but some have since resumed the hunger strike. Mr. Scott is in regular contact with his two clients and they are both refusing food, he said.

The Ontario government says only one person is on a hunger strike.

"We have confirmed there's only one person on a hunger strike at Central East Correctional Centre on an immigration hold. The remaining immigrants have been observed taking food on a regular basis," said Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

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