Federal Study: Border Agency’s Detaining Practice Too Expensive

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Report indicates expensive operation to detain foreign nationals

expensive jail

Image source from derekskey on flickr

A federal study has determined that locking up immigrants and refugee claimants is an expensive practice for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).  According to the report, more than $45 million was used to detain people in 2008-09, which amounts to over $3000 per case.  In 2009-10, 9,420 people were detained for immigration concerns.

Federal immigration law dictates that non-citizens can be held by the CBSA if an officer believes the person poses a danger, is considered a flight risk, will be inadmissible due to security reasons or human rights violations, or if their identity cannot be confirmed.  Detainees who are considered low risk to public safety are held in immigration holding centres, while provincial jails hold high-risk detainees.  In areas like the Prairies and Atlantic Canada, the jails are used when the border agency lacks holding centres.  Provincial jails are the most expensive option, and usage is increasing.

Toronto Bail Program one less expensive option

Following the study, the government is looking into lower-cost alternatives.  The CBSA is developing a “national detentions strategy” to find options other than jail.

One option is the Toronto Bail Program, which could eventually expand across the country.  The program is run by a non-profit agency on a fee-for-service basis with the CBSA.  Instead of imprisonment, foreign nationals would have community-based supervision.  This would cost $12 to $16 a day, rather than $112 daily for holding centres, and $175 for provincial jails.

Besides expensive, handling of detainees inconsistent

The report also indicated that the handling of detainees is different across the country.

For instance, during the first 48-hour period of detaining an individual, the border officer will decide whether to hold or release the person.  Depending on where the person arrives, the report suggests the detainee will receive different treatment.

The government will have to address these issues in addition to finding less expensive alternatives to imprisonment.

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