Human-rights groups are urging Ottawa to reverse course on plans to allow immigrant detention in federal prisons, saying vulnerable people could be exposed to unreasonably harsh conditions.

Ottawa can detain foreigners without charge when they can't be identified or when it is suspected they won't show up to hearings to determine whether they can stay in Canada.

Provinces have refused to allow Ottawa to house such people in jails, and the federal government runs just three centres that can hold foreigners who are not facing criminal charges.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller says under the budget measure to allow detention in prisons, immigrants would be held in areas separate from criminal offenders.

Amnesty International and Citizens for Public Justice say foreigners should never be incarcerated without charge, and they want Ottawa to fund more spots for grassroots groups that house foreigners.

The federal budget also announced legislative changes to streamline asylum claims and more quickly deport people who don't qualify for refugee status in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.