Coroner’s inquest into the death of a Chilean man, jailed on immigration charges


The brother of a Chilean man who died in a Milton jail while being held on immigration charges hopes a coroner’s inquest will lead to changes in the system.

Francisco Romero Astorga first came from Chile as a refugee claimant in 1996. He was denied but stayed for six years anyway until authorities found out and deported him. He wasn’t allowed back without permission, but in late 2015 his brother says he wanted another chance at a better life. Esteban Astorga works in Dubai, but was visiting Chile with his newborn and decided to help his brother.

“He asked me the favour of brothers. So I said OK I’ll buy you the ticket, have a safe flight. That was the last time you saw him? That was the last time I saw him.”

Border officials stopped Astorga at Pearson but when they left the room, Astorga found his suitcases, tested an emergency door and walked out of the airport despite lights and sirens that went off. Two months later he was arrested for shoplifting at a Mississauga Wal-Mart. Immigration officials took him into custody and he was taken to Maplehurst Detention Centre. Doctors there said he was depressed and initially suicidal.

An officer from Maplehurst testified, when he went on to the block that morning, Astorga’s cell mate was banging on the door. He told him Astorga was snoring and he couldn’t wake him up. The coroner’s inquest heard that Astorga died from an overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamines, possibly obtained in jail exactly two months after his arrest.

The lawyer for his family says Astorga did not get the help he needed in jail.