B. a-ba of the Agreement on safe third country

B.a-ba de l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs

The influx of irregular migrants at the canadian border and the responsibilities related to the arrival of asylum seekers has provoked strong reactions on the two Hills, in Quebec and in Ottawa. The official opposition in the national Assembly, as well as other social organizations in the country, is claiming the suspension of the Agreement on safe third country, signed by Canada and the United States. That said this deal? How is it the cause of the problem, or is it rather part of the solution? The Sun makes the point.

The last week will have first been marked by the increase of tension between the federal and provincial governments, and a seeming return to calm.

On Monday, the quebec government threatened to no longer welcome new applicants if the federal government refused to grant the $ 146 million claimed to accommodate properly the hundreds of people who cross the border, near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. At the end of an intergovernmental forum on Wednesday, Ottawa has finally relaxed its position and will work now with Quebec to help the province meet its obligations.

Beyond this arm of the iron federal-provincial, the official opposition in the national Assembly campaigned last summer for the full suspension of the Agreement on safe third country, which binds Canada to the United States.

The Parti québécois is not alone in believing that the suspension, or even abrogation of the Agreement would reduce the burden on government authorities. Amnesty international and the canadian Council for refugees have in the past brought legal action to invalidate it, without success.

Effective from 2004, this agreement was adopted on the basis that Canada and the United States are “safe countries” which respect the international principles of refugee protection. The Agreement put on the sharing of responsibilities between countries in the field of processing of asylum applications.

That said the Agreement?

To be clear, any application for asylum must be made in the first country where the applicant has arrived. For example, an asylum seeker from the United States and who is present at a border post canadian cannot make an asylum claim. The reason is that the United States, where it happens, is a safe country. The canadian customs officers may then invoke the Agreement and require the applicant to make an application to the United States rather than in Canada, as summed up by the professor at the Faculty of law of the University of Ottawa, Joao Velloso.

Why are they coming through the woods?

The Agreement applies only to the posts of border land, but also to applicants who wish to access Canada by train and by plane, according to certain criteria. It does not, therefore, apply elsewhere, which in part explains the popularity of the path Roxham, near the station of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, which is used by the vast majority of migrants.

The other hand, the canadian laws stipulate that it is up to the police officers of the royal Canadian mounted police (RCMP) to ensure the security of the border between the border crossings. Applicants who cross the border by land, outside of the border official, to enter Canada illegally and are arrested by the RCMP.

The reason for which the Agreement applies only to positions of border is that it is the only place where a federal agent can determine with certainty that the applicant is alive and well in the United States. An RCMP officer cannot, by itself, to return an asylum seeker who has crossed the canada-u.s. border in an irregular manner.

The applicant is then supported by the canadian authorities, which opens up a folder with his name and processes its request.

Another reason, says Mr. Velloso, is that a majority of applicants who wish to enter Canada can be found in an irregular situation in the United States and may be at risk of deportation if they are pinned by the us authorities.

The United States, a safe country?

The subject of the legal challenge joint Amnesty international and the canadian Council for refugees was the character “safe” in the United States.

“This has been a problem more recently, it is the arrival of Mr. Trump to power. It has changed the u.s. immigration policies,” Mr Velloso. The specialist notes, however, that the United States were no longer regarded as a safe country by many after the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the war on terror launched by the Bush administration. “But it has worsened with the arrival of Trump”, grants the expert, particularly because of the decrees, the anti-immigration set in place during the first months of his mandate.


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