Canada tightening borders to refugees – Safe Third exceptions removed

Posted by admin on Jul 23rd, 2009

By Juliet O’Neill, Canwest News ServiceJuly 23, 2009

OTTAWA — About 5,000 Haitian and other refugee claimants entering Canada from the United States will be turned back annually under a tightened rule put into effect by the federal government Thursday. Claimants from Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe will be sent back across the border if they arrive from the United States. The rule was announced Thursday evening. The government also ended a suspension of deportations to Burundi, Liberia and Rwanda, a move that could affect about 2,000 people. Though deportations are no longer suspended, effective immediately, those who have been in Canada for some time are expected to be given six months to sort out their status in Canada.

“It is very significant, particularly when added to visa requirements the government placed on Mexico and the Czech Republic last week,” said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “It seems to be a strategy to block access as much as possible to the refugee determination system.”

Haiti and the seven other countries were on a “temporary suspension of removals” list whose people have been exempt from deportation and from being turned away at the Canada-U.S. border under the “safe third country agreement.” That exemption has been eliminated. Dench said it is the most significant exemption under the agreement.

Under the agreement, which only covers entries by land, people making refugee claims are required to seek protection in whichever of the two countries they enter first — Canada or the United States.

Those turned back to the United States can try claiming refugee status south of the border but Dench said the Americans have been deporting Haitians and do not allow refugee claims from Haitians if they have been in the U.S. for more than a year.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the border rules tightening and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan announced the ban on removals of people to Burundi, Liberia and Rwanda is lifted “due to improved conditions” in those countries.

“The objective of the Safe Third Country Agreement is to allow both Canada and the United States to handle refugee claims in an orderly manner, reduce the possibility of multiple claims and share the responsibility for providing protection to those in need,” Kenney said in a statement. “This exception was undermining those objectives and therefore the integrity of our asylum system.

“It is important that we don’t create a two-tier immigration system: one tier for immigrants who wait patiently in line to come to Canada, frequently for years; and another tier for those who jump the immigration queue and make refugee claims in Canada after they’ve already had the opportunity to do so in a safe, democratic country.”
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