This isn’t a question of compassion alone. It’s also a matter of fairness.
What should Canada do about our Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States?
Part of the U.S.-Canada Smart Border Action Plan, the agreement states that refugee claimants must request protection in the first ‘safe’ country in which they arrive, unless they qualify for an exception (for family members, unaccompanied minors, certain document holders, and people who could face the death penalty in the U.S. or a third country).
Signed in 2002, the agreement became law in 2004 and applies to refugee claimants seeking entry to Canada from the United States at Canada-U.S. land border crossings, by train, or at airports if a claimant has been refused refugee status in the U.S. and is in transit through Canada after being deported.
This leaves a glaring hole — or rather a series of glaring holes, strung across the Canada-U.S. border. Refugee claimants who cross at unofficial crossings (such as farmers’ fields near the border towns of Emerson, Manitoba, or Lacolle, Quebec) cannot be turned back, as they are not subject to the agreement. Instead, they are arrested for illegal entry, and then turned over to Canadian Border Services. If they are not found to be a threat to Canada, most of them will then begin the process of applying for refugee status here.
This situation is not new, nor is it anything like the flood of migrants experienced by countries in Europe, where millions of people have been on the move. From the United States, about 2,000 people crossed illegally into Canada in 2016, compared to 7,000 through land points of entry.
But in the past year, the number of illegal migrants has been rising. Between April 2016 and January 2017, 430 asylum seekers crossed illegally near Emerson, compared to 340 who crossed in the entire 2015-2016 year. In Quebec, 1,280 refugee claimants entered “irregularly” between April 2016 and January 2017, triple the previous year’s total; in British Columbia and Yukon, 652 people did so, twice as many as the year before. Border Services has set up a trailer in Emerson and an emergency processing station in a basement in Lacolle to deal with the influx.
Why the uptick? While many refugees have said it’s because of the new hardline immigration policies of Donald Trump, which make them feel unsafe in the United States, the Canadian government has not confirmed that claim. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale recently stated that “the vast majority” of the refugee claimants were using the U.S. as a “transit point,” having never planned to actually stay there. Asked why, he simply responded: “That’s a very good question.”
Read the full article on iPolitics.