Despite US Government Attitude, Country Still Safe for Asylum Seekers—But Room For Improvement In International Agreements
According to documents obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information laws, the Canadian government conducted a review of its Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States following changes in US immigration policy.
Between January and March of 2017, Canada conducted an extensive review of this policy, but in-depth analyses remain redacted in the released documents. Nonetheless, these documents went on to state that the US “continues to meet the requirements for designation as a safe third country.”
However, this review also noted that the agreement is “antiquated” and needs updating to “ensure there continues to be orderly migration within the North American perimeter.”
The Safe Third Country Agreement
The Safe Third Country Agreement has raised contentious issues amongst immigration lawyers and advocates in Canada for quite some time following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public statements that Canada welcomes “those fleeing persecution, terror and war.” Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), asylum seekers entering Canada through official ports of entry along the United States-Canada border would be turned away.
As a result, asylum seekers looking to flee the United States following President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration turned to unofficial and irregular border crossings. This allows them to circumvent the STCA, which states that asylum seekers must make a refugee claim in the first safe country they arrive in.
Recently, the Canadian government has come under fire for not suspending the STCA. Criticism from both groups for and against an open policy for refugees and immigration is frequently seen in the news.
Despite heavy criticism for the US government’s approach to immigrants and refugees, particularly its treatment of families with the highly controversial and contemptible practice of separating parents from children, Canada’s review of the STCA has found the United States to be a safe country for asylum seekers. However, this is surprising and does not reflect the real fear and insecurity that individuals fleeing the United States to Canada feel.
Canada has deemed the US is safe due to its meeting three basic requirements: compliance with the United Nations convention against torture, compliance with the United Nations convention on refugees, and a good human rights record.
Still, the documents obtained by The Canadian Press also included internal emails between immigration officials that show concerns about the STCA as well as public perceptions about irregular border crossings. It’s clear that these departments are closely monitoring the situation, but the specific mentions that staff find the STCA to be outdated raises further questions about why it remains. Canada’s approach to the STCA appears to be at a crossroads, and it’s never been more apparent that change is required to ensure the safety of all those fleeing persecution and seeking protection in Canada.