After the Trump government first came into power, many of us were horrified by the inhumane attacks on people of colour, immigrants and asylum seekers. We were further disturbed by the fact that the Canadian federal government continued to stand by the 'Safe Third Country' agreement. Many petitions are circulating asking for action: from a temporary suspension of the agreement to a complete overhaul of the immigrant detention system.
This month the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), Amnesty International (AI) and the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) completed filing extensive evidence in Federal Court to support a legal challenge, in conjunction with a family from El Salvador, of the designation of the United States as a safe third country for refugees.
The Safe Third Country Agreement was signed by the US and Canada in 2002 and came into effect in 2004. It basically means a person claiming refugee status in the United States or Canada must apply in the first safe country in which they arrive. Only the United States and Canada are designated as ‘safe countries’. This designation is subject to a review of human rights “and only countries which respect human rights and offer a high degree of protection to asylum seekers may be designated as safe third countries’. Given the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the immigration ban, the anti-immigrant policies in the US as many permanent residents are now second class citizens, and the border detentions, an important message to the US would be to take away the ‘safe third country’ status of the US and end this agreement.
The campaign to end the Safe Third Country agreement has been going on since 2009. There are now tens of thousands of Canadians demanding that the agreement be suspended.
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