Which Refugees Are Not Covered By The Safe Third Country Agreement

By , 21/12/2020

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, which has been in effect since December 2004, Canada and the United States declare each other “safe” for refugees and establish the principle that asylum seekers should generally seek refuge in the first of the two countries they reach. There are some limited exceptions to this principle, including for family members in the other country. The debate on the third-country security agreement has for some time become a lightning rod for racist and xenophobic rhetoric. The former Federal Conservative immigration critic urged the Liberal government to close the “gap” and extend the pact across the border. “People who come from a safe country and do not directly flee persecution should not be able to ignore our laws and enter Canada illegally,” Rempel wrote. “If they do, they should be overwhelmed.” While the Convention prohibits the return of a refugee to countries where his life or freedom would be threatened, the implementation of a safe third country in Europe has undermined this principle. “By failing to guarantee asylum seekers` access to the territory and a fair process for determining refugees in the host country, by putting States at risk, directly or indirectly, of committing the principle of non-refoulement and thus repealing a fundamental principle recognized by the usual domestic law.” The differences between the Canadian and U.S. systems make this result equally likely in our case and steps must be taken to ensure that asylum seekers are not returned to the United States if they are probably not heard fairly. An asylum seeker is a person who has left his country and is seeking protection for refugees (also known as “asylum”). Here too, they may or may not be a refugee.

In some countries, including the United States, “asylum seeker” is the term used to refer to what we in Canada refer to the “refugee claimant,” that is, someone who is in the process of determining refugee claims. Under the agreement, refugee claimants must apply in the first country they arrive between the United States or Canada, unless they are entitled to a waiver. For example, asylum seekers who are citizens of a country other than the United States and who arrive from the United States at the land border between Canada and the United States can only assert their rights to refugees in Canada if they fulfill an exception under the Safe Third Country Agreement. Refugees who are resettled are designated by the Canadian government as refugees while they are still outside of Canada in a third country. They are subjected to immigration processing before travelling to Canada and become permanent residents as soon as they arrive. They are supported in their establishment in Canada for the first year either by the government (Government Assisted Refugees) or by private sponsors (privately sponsored refugees). Resettlement is a discretionary measure of Canada on a humanitarian basis. Refugee claimants apply for Canada`s protection at the Canadian border or from Canada. Their refugee application (if they are deemed eligible) is heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board. If it turns out to be a refugee, they can apply for a permanent stay. Canada has legal obligations to refugees: the most fundamental principle of international refugee law is non-refoulement, which means that Canada must not return refugees to persecution.

This international legal obligation is reinforced by the obligations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in particular Section 7 (right to life, liberty and security of the person).

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