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Posts Tagged ‘canada border services agency’

““I think it is a matter of public
interest that border service agencies like the CBSA are able to obtain
access to DNA results from sites like Familytreedna.com and
Ancestry.com,” said Subodh Bharati, a lawyer who is representing a man
who says he’s Liberian, but who the government is now trying to prove is
actually Nigerian. “There are clear privacy concerns. How is the CBSA
able to access this information and what measures are being put in place
to ensure this information remains confidential?”

Bharati,
who is representing his client through CLASP, the legal aid clinic at
Osgoode Hall Law School, said he is aware of at least two individuals
who used Familytreedna.com, one in the UK, who have been contacted by
the CBSA seeking to deport someone from Canada.

“Individuals
using these sites to look at their family tree should be aware that
their confidential information is being made available to the government
and that border agents may contact them to help facilitate the
deportation of migrants,” he said.

Both companies deny working with law enforcement.

Franklin
Godwin, one of Bharati’s clients, who was accepted as a refugee from
Liberia and granted permanent resident status in 1996, was charged two
years later with importing and conspiring to import heroin and sentenced
to seven years in jail. Because of the seriousness of his criminal
convictions, Godwin’s permanent residence status was taken away and the
government ordered him deported back to Liberia.

“Individuals
using these sites to look at their family tree should be aware [it may]
help facilitate the deportation of migrants.”

But when he
arrived in Liberia in 2003, accompanied by Canadian immigration
officials and with a travel certificate in hand from the Liberian
embassy in Ghana, he was denied entry into the country by Liberian
officials, who claimed that only the embassy in Washington could issue a
legitimate document, and that what he had was fake.

Godwin
was brought back to Canada. The government also tried to deport him in
2005, but he was rejected once more, with officials claiming again he
wasn’t a Liberian national. He was brought back.

Since then,
Godwin has been ricocheting between the criminal justice system — with
multiple charges of theft, fraud, breaching bail conditions — and the
CBSA.”

Godwin has never seen the results of the first test, and neither has
Bharati. He points out that Godwin was facing indefinite detention in a
maximum security prison and was willing to do anything to get himself
out, including providing his DNA.

“It’s
his DNA that they’re using to determine his nationality and they’re not
releasing this test results to him for some sort of privacy concern —
they say they don’t want him to reach out to these individuals that
they’ve found in his family tree, despite the fact that he’s in a
maximum security prison,” said Bharati, adding that the whole premise of
using DNA to establish nationality is flawed since ethnic origin
doesn’t necessarily tell what someone’s citizenship is.

A
similar issue arose in the case of Olajide Ogunye, a Canadian who was
detained for eight months after the CBSA claimed his fingerprints
matched those of a failed refugee claimant who they believed had
returned to Canada illegally. The agency has never produced the
fingerprint sample they used to identify Ogunye. He’s now suing the
Canadian government for $10 million for wrongful arrest and negligent
investigation.

Jared
Will, another Toronto-based immigration lawyer, has also had two
clients who had their DNA analyzed on the website FamilytreeDNA.com. He
described the process as “extorted consent.” In one case, the agency was
trying to establish Gambian nationality, and in the other, Ghanaian.
Both samples were taken in 2017. “They can’t really say no.”

“In
both cases, I think what they were looking for is evidence of the
country to which they wanted to deport them,” said Will. “But in both
cases, clients are in detention and if they don’t do what’s asked of
them to facilitate removal, non-cooperation is used against them, so
they can’t really say no.”

Bharati has also found that Godwin’s
story of being denied entry at the border isn’t unique for Liberian
nationals. Emails obtained through access to information reveal
immigration officials repeatedly mention how difficult it is to deport
someone to Liberia and the lack of cooperation from Liberian officials
even when deportees have documents that have been issued by the Liberian
government. Emails reference officials in Monrovia “bouncing back our
cases for no apparent reason,” and Canadian officials often being told
that the identity of the person they’re sending or the documentation is
fraudulent. In one email, a CBSA officer says he was told by a UN police
officer that because there was an election coming up, Liberian
officials were reluctant to let people in because they didn’t want
deportees to change the outcome of the election.

“It’s
not the case that Mr. Godwin is lying — Liberia doesn’t repatriate its
own citizens, especially the ones that have criminal records so Canada
brings him back,” Bharati told VICE News.

But Canada now seems
to be taking their word. They conducted a linguistics analysis with
Godwin using a Swedish company called Sprakab, which concluded that he
doesn’t sound Liberian, using a 24-minute recording taken in 2017.
Godwin’s lawyer Subodh Bharati doesn’t know where the recording came
from and hasn’t been allowed to hear it.”


Tamara Khandaker, “Canada is using ancestry DNA websites to help it deport people.” VICE News, July 26, 2018.

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“On March 21st, members of Sanctuary Health, a network of healthcare workers and organizers, met for a vigil in front of the Fraser Health Authority Offices, one of BC’s largest health-care providers, in Surrey. They were there to honour the victims of a practice which puts migrants without permanent residency status at risk within the healthcare system.

Undocumented immigrants are often afraid to access services, like healthcare, because they’re likely to be referred to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and deported. A Freedom of Information request made by the community group revealed that between January of 2014 to October 2015, staff at Fraser Health’s facilities made 558 referrals to the Canada Border Services Agency. Fraser Health says they contact CBSA to determine billing rates since nonresidents are charged more. But doing so keeps many people away.

The FOI also showed that Fraser Health’s policy was to have staff – physicians, nurses, and social workers – work with the financial department in facilitating deportations of undocumented patients.

Knowing this, many avoid getting care. There are reports of people with expired tourist visas being visited at their hospital bedside by CBSA officials.

“We started to get phone calls from construction workers,” says Byron Cruz, a member of Sanctuary Health in an interview with Rankandfile.ca: “They say “I had this situation with my arm and I don’t want to go to the hospital because they’ll call immigration.””

Sanctuary Health was formed to deal with such situations.

“With some clients, we give direct nursing care such as dressing changes, wound care, assessment or just comforting them through a difficult time,” Sarah Reaburn, a nurse volunteering with Sanctuary Health said. The volunteers do this work while depending on free clinic space and supplies. Sanctuary Health volunteers also let people know about other places they can receive care, continuously connecting patients with trusted healthcare workers.

“We send a message to our network explaining the situation, then any of the nurses or healthcare workers can respond and say they can see the patient at the clinic, outside of the system,” says Cruz. “We had a construction guy with an eye injury who we arranged to meet a doctor at the corner of a street. We had another situation with a guy who needed stitches. We sent a message to the network and the first person who answered was a veterinarian.””

– Daniel Tseghay, “Hospitals are not border checkpoints,Rankandfile.ca. March 30, 2016.

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