Amnesty International Calls for Suspension of Canada-US Immigration Agreement Due to Controversial US Refugee Policy
Despite a request from Amnesty International, Canada has refused to strip the United States of its designation as a ‘safe third country’ in light of a controversial new US refugee policy.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the US, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first ‘safe country’ that they step foot in. Therefore, refugees who present themselves at a Canada-US border post looking to make a refugee claim in Canada are, with some exceptions, denied access and returned to the US to apply for protection there. This does not apply to those who do not enter Canada through an official port of entry.
However, the Trump administration recently moved to end asylum protections for most migrants from Central America that arrive at the US southern border seeking refuge.
Under the new US Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security rule, any person who enters the US through its southern border will be deemed ineligible for asylum unless they applied for protection in a third country that they travelled through en-route to the US.
This directly affects migrants seeking refuge in Canada after already entering the US, as the STCA requires them to be denied entry and returned to the States, even though they would now be ineligible for protection there and be forced to return to their home country to face potential violence and persecution. This new US policy is expected to face a legal challenge.
In a blog post on its website, Amnesty International argued that the policy does not adequately guarantee the rights of those seeking asylum and should, therefore, nullify the STCA.
"With the implementation of this policy, there is no single basis upon which the STCA can, in any way, be defended," said Justin Mohammed, Amnesty International Canada's human rights law and policy campaigner. "The operation of the STCA would prevent those very same claimants from obtaining protection in Canada and therefore must be suspended, or otherwise risk complicity in U.S. violations of international refugee and human rights law.”
The United Nations' refugee agency also spoke out about the new U.S. policy, stating that it jeopardizes asylum protections and does not comply with international obligations.
According to the Canadian Press, a spokesperson for Canada’s Border Security Minister, Bill Blair, said that despite the arguments being presented, Canada still considers the US a safe country governed by the rule of law, adding that US rules and policies are always being reviewed.