Friday January 6th, 2023
We are, once again, infuriated and saddened to learn of the death of two migrants within a period of two
The death on Christmas Day of a person detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the
Surrey’s CBSA detention center in British Columbia was announced on December 27 by CBSA. On
January 5, Sûreté du Québec confirmed they found the dead body of a man near Roxham Road, an
irregular crossing of migrants between the USA and Canada.
We deplore the death of the migrant man near Roxham Road and hold the Canadian government
responsible and accountable for it. While we do not know the cause of the death, we can say with
certainty that no one should have to die alone trying to cross the border at great personal stress, danger,
and grave expense. Every person has the right to migrate, the right to resist forced displacement, and the
right to return to their country of origin if they so choose.
Let us recall that it is the Safe Third Country Agreement that forces people to choose riskier ways to cross
the border. The STCA is an agreement between Canada and the United States that has been in place since
2004 and states that the United States and Canada designate the other country as a safe country for
refugees and close the door to most refugee claimants at the US–Canada border. This agreement has been
widely criticized by many organizations and by migrants and refugees themselves, particularly because it
undermines the right of anyone fleeing persecution to seek asylum. Under this agreement, migrants and
refugees who make asylum claims at official border crossings in Canada not meeting the criteria are
automatically removed to the United States without due process. As a result, many migrants and refugees
resign themselves to crossing the US–Canada border through so–called “irregular” ports of entry,
including Roxham Road, sometimes at great risk to their lives – as seen in this case.
As for the death of the person detained by CBSA, their statement mentioned that the next of kin of the
deceased migrant were contacted, but gave no information concerning the name, age, gender, country of
origin, let alone the reason or duration of their detention. The information on the circumstances under
which the person died in the detention center — as to why they could not get the person to a hospital in
time to save their life — was also withheld. As usual, CBSA claims to do so “due to privacy
consideration” (source: CBSA statement).
The death of this migrant in the Surrey BC prison echoes that of another person detained in Laval QC in
January 2022. The CBSA similarly shared no details, particularly of the circumstances of the person’s
death, and insisted that no information would be released as an “investigation is ongoing”. Almost a year
later, there have been no updates. It is now becoming more and more clear that the CBSA means only to
obscure the extraordinary violence of their detention regime and ensure that they are never accountable
for the deaths in their custody, as they attempt to outwait the public scrutiny.
The person in Surrey, BC who was under CBSA custody died in the newly built immigration detention
center. Ironically, in Montreal, groups have been protesting the newly built migrant prison – the so–called
detention center, that is marketed as a more comfortable place for those detained. A prison is a prison
whether there is a yard inside or not. These facilities are inhumane and the treatment of people detained
therein remains harsh and as we saw, at times, lethal. Millions of dollars spent in new facilities does not
replace freedom. No imprisonment provides justice or dignity.
We repeat: Borders Kill, CBSA Negligence Kills. No migrant, no human being, should have to suffer
such inhumane treatment. We will fight until every person is free.
dehumanize people while in detention and also in their death. This treatment of people detained is evident
from the number of deaths of people while under CBSA custody; over the past twenty years, at least 17
people have died in detention:
Bolante Idowu Alo
Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan
Fransisco Javier Roméro Astorga
Lucia Vega Jimenez
Shawn Dwight Cole
“As long as the CBSA continues to detain migrants, deaths in detention will continue,” said a joint
statement issued by migrant justice organizations based in BC.
We, the undersigned groups, stand in solidarity with the family of the person killed and with the
groups in BC on the frontlines fighting this injustice.
Let us recall that detention is an inherent part of the repressive matrix of the Canadian immigration
system. It’s a tool of the Canadian imperialist state that ignores any responsibility towards the people who
are migrating for a better life, seeking to leave situations of poverty, exploitation and violence, where the
Canadian state and companies are often complicit in creating these very conditions.
The aim of the detention apparatus of the State is to deter people from entering fortress Canada. This
oppresses migrants and forces them to live in the margins, isolated and underground, constantly fearing
arrest and imprisonment. The practice of putting migrants in prison promotes exploitation where the
vulnerable people resort to working and living in abusive and unsafe conditions without recourse or
We denounce the deaths of migrants at the Roxham Road and in the detention center in Surrey, BC and
demand that this violence and impunity of CBSA ends. Not one more death.
We demand open borders, no Safe Third Country Agreement, and the free movement of people seeking
justice and dignity. That is, freedom to move, freedom to return, and freedom to stay.
Stop the detentions, stop the deportations! We demand a comprehensive, ongoing regularization program
without any exceptions and discriminations!
Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network) | Carranza LLP | Migrant Workers
Alliance for Change | Migrante Canada | Migrante BC | No One Is Illegal Toronto | Parkdale
Community Legal Services | RAMA Okanagan | RAMA Isla | Sanctuary Health | Sanctuar