June 25, 2024

Canada court upholds pact on returning asylum seekers to US


Canada’s Supreme Court has upheld an immigration agreement that permits authorities to deny entry to asylum seekers arriving from the United States.

The Safe Third Country Agreement, established in 2004, states that asylum seekers must submit their applications in the first safe country they reach after leaving their country of origin.

According to a report, the unanimous decision by the judges declared that the agreement does not violate the rights to freedom and security of refugee claimants.

The report states that “in July 2020, a Federal Court judge invalidated the agreement, deeming it inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms due to the inadequate detention conditions faced by those returned to the US.

“Advocacy groups, representing claimants including an Ethiopian woman who was held in solitary confinement for a week in a US detention center after being deported by Canadian authorities, challenged the constitutionality of the agreement.”

Judge Nicholas Kasirer, in Friday’s ruling, acknowledged that even if asylum seekers faced actual risks of refoulement (forced return to a place where they could be persecuted), the Canadian legislative system includes safeguards to mitigate such risks. However, the Supreme Court stated that the Federal Court should review the policy concerning female asylum seekers who fear persecution based on their gender.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) highlighted that the US is not a safe country for many refugees, particularly women and LGBTQIA+ individuals.

They face the possibility of arbitrary detention, solitary confinement, and eventual return to a country where they may be subjected to persecution, torture, or death.

Amnesty International Canada urged the Canadian government to withdraw from the agreement promptly, citing the significant risk of refoulement faced by refugees, particularly those escaping gender-based persecution.

Since March, migrants can be turned away from any point along the border between Canada and the United States. Previously, the agreement did not apply to asylum seekers who arrived in Canada through unofficial entry points like Roxham Road, located south of Montreal. In 2022, around 40,000 migrants crossed into Canada via this route from the United States.

Source: Agence France-Presse/SGP

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