Voices from Inside Detention: Masoud Hajivand

From the IHRP report "We Have No Rights": Arbitrary Imprisonment and Cruel Treatment of Migrants with Mental Health Issues in Canada.

Despite having no criminal background, Masoud Hajivand has been held in immigration detention at Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay, Ontario since June 2014. While he has no diagnosed mental health issue, Masoud told us: “I’m not okay…I cannot sleep. Sometimes I am feeling suicide [sic].” He has a Canadian wife and a teenage step-daughter who live in Toronto, and with whom he is very close.  

In 2007, Masoud fled from Iran and sought asylum in Canada, believing that this was a “peaceful country.” He is a convert to Christianity, and for that reason “fears imprisonment, torture and possible execution if he is returned to Iran.” When the IHRP spoke with Masoud, he was distressed and spoke with great fear: “I cannot go to Iran. If I go to Iran I’m going to die and be tortured.” Nevertheless, his refugee application was rejected.

Perversely, it is precisely this “extreme fear of returning to Iran” that makes Masoud a flight risk in the eyes of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and which the Immigration Division Members at his detention review hearings cite to continue his detention. It does not help that Masoud went underground for two years when he was first ordered to be deported in August 2011, after his refugee claim was rejected.

In June 2014, for reasons that remain unclear, Masoud reported to an appointment with a CBSA officer and was arrested and placed in immigration detention. Masoud was told that he had a right to call his embassy, even though Iran has not had an embassy in Canada since September 2012. He spent three days at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre, after which he was moved to Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ontario. When Masoud inquired as to why he was being held in jail when he “[hadn’t] committed any crime,” CBSA officials told him that he was a flight risk. He spent approximately 12 days at Maplehurst before he was transferred to CECC.

Masoud, who has severe back pain, described at length the difficulty he faces in trying to get health care at CECC: “I’m taking just some pain killers. They give me that after 2.5 months - just regular Tylenol. I had to see the doctor two times; I had to say ‘please … I have pain.’”

He grew agitated when describing his imprisonment and the frustration of not having any end in sight. “You see all my grey [hair]. I didn’t have any grey hair seven months ago.” He is angry that he has been treated with such disregard by the Canadian government: “I apply for refugee [status] in this country, why do you treat me like that?”

While in detention, Masoud resisted two attempts to deport him. At one of Masoud’s detention reviews, Minister’s counsel used this “non-cooperation” as evidence to show that “there is no reason to believe he will cooperate if released,” rather than as evidence of fear of persecution in Iran. According to a media story, the ID Member remarked that Masoud’s actions “show a very high level of desperation to remain in Canada.” Unfortunately, according to news reports, the adjudicator “did not consider six months lengthy in an immigration context,” and told Masoud: “‘You have created the situation of your detention.’” Masoud’s stepdaughter, present at the detention review, “sobbed quietly.”

Masoud also described significant problems with getting adequate interpreters at his detention hearings. Although he requested a Farsi interpreter, he was provided with an interpreter from Saudi Arabia with inadequate knowledge of Farsi. According to Masoud, the ID Member told him that he could not demand the exact type of interpreter to be present at reviews.

At another detention review hearing, Masoud tried to arrange for an alternative to detention by way of an electronic monitoring system. He recalled that his “family, a surety, and an expert witness from an electronic bracelet company all waited outside the hearing room, unaware that [the detention review] had begun until after it had ended. [An IRB spokesperson] later said the public had been excluded by mistake.”

Masoud explained, “I [brought] the GPS – I pay [sic] for that.” He lamented that it costs $600 every time the GPS spokesperson attends a detention review. “Before he [could even] come into the room, the Board Member [had] closed his file and [said] ‘flight risk’…I [had] a bondsperson and a tracker thing and they didn’t even listen to us. They didn’t even let the people come into the bail [sic] hearing. But in the report it says this hearing is public.”

Masoud’s experience in Canada has been overwhelmingly negative because of his treatment by immigration authorities: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I came to this country. I applied for refugee [status] thinking this country is good. But this is the worst country in the world. I paid eight years tax and they keep me in here for nothing.”

Masoud has applied for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment, as well as for an in-land sponsorship with his wife. He is upset that he cannot be released into the community while he waits for these applications to be processed: “You don’t give me bail but you give criminals bail.”