Refugee Third Country Agreement

In a decisive decision this summer, a Canadian federal judge ruled that the United States is not a safe country for asylum seekers. In that statement, the court stated that the Safe Third Country Agreement between the United States and Canada – which requires refugee claimants to apply for refugee protection in the first country they arrive in and is based on the assumption that both countries are „safe“ for asylum seekers – is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is inconsistent with the Convention. Although the verdict will not take effect for six months and the Canadian government has recently appealed, the decision is nevertheless a turning point for the rights of asylum seekers in the United States and Canada. The RAC continues to call on the Canadian government to withdraw from the safe third country agreement. Shortly after its entry into force, the CCR participated in legal action against the designation of the United States as a safe third country. The Federal Court of Justice ruled that the United States is not a safe third country, but the decision was overturned on appeal for technical reasons (for more information, click here). Last July, the Federal Court of Justice declared the STCA unconstitutional because it violated „the right to life, liberty and security of the person“ as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The case was filed by Amnesty International, the Canadian Refugee Council and the Canadian Council of Churches on behalf of several complainants. The judge`s decision upheld the argument made for years by human rights and refugee advocates that the United States, especially under the Trump administration, is not a safe place for refugees. Conventions on safe third-country nationals are not explicitly mentioned in the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees. Rather, their legitimacy derives from Article 31 of the 1951 Convention, which states that a refugee should not be punished for illegal entry into a country if he arrives directly from a country where he is threatened. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has itself warned against over-interpreting safe third country agreements, although it acknowledges that they may be acceptable in certain circumstances. [22] Such ambiguities have prompted some Canadian legal experts to question the legality of the Canada-U.S.

safe third country agreement. [23] The agreement represented a long-standing desire of the Canadian government to limit the number of refugee claimants, since potential claimants are much more likely to travel to Canada by land via the United States to make a claim than in the opposite direction.

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