Lawyers call for Safe Third Coun­try pact change

Gov­ern­ment un­der pres­sure to re­peal it since Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - NI­COLE THOMP­SON

Im­mi­gra­tion lawyers say they’ve re­ceived an in­flux of re­quests from refugees in the United States hop­ing to seek asy­lum in Canada — de­spite an agree­ment that makes it nearly im­pos­si­ble.

The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment re­quires peo­ple to ap­ply for asy­lum in the first coun­try where they ar­rive, un­less an im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber lives in the other coun­try.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has faced pres­sure to re­peal the agree­ment since U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der ban­ning travel and im­mi­gra­tion from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries. But Canada’s gov­ern­ment has so far re­fused.

Alas­tair Clarke, of Clarke Im­mi­gra­tion Law in Winnipeg, said that’s a mis­take. He said 10 new clients have been re­ferred to him in the past week — some of whom crossed the border on foot, suc­cess­fully by­pass­ing border points so they could make their refugee claims once al­ready in the coun­try.

It’s a method po­lice say is on the rise — the RCMP said 21 peo­ple were ar­rested for il­le­gally cross­ing the border into Emer­son, Man., Satur­day.

Clarke said it’s putting peo­ple at risk.

“They’re cross­ing farmer fields on foot,” he added. “When it’s -10, -15 with the wind chill fac­tors, it’s highly risky.”

He noted that refugees are avoid­ing com­ing through border cross­ing points be­cause they fear that if they get turned away from the border due to the Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment, they won’t be able to file for refugee sta­tus in Canada later on.

He said the agree­ment should be ei­ther “re­pealed, amended or sus­pended.”

“The refugees who are com­ing into Canada do not feel safe in the United States,” he said.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Sunday, but ear­lier this month, a spokesper­son said the gov­ern­ment wouldn’t sus­pend the agree­ment.

“Our gov­ern­ment has no in­di­ca­tion that the ex­ec­u­tive or­der has any im­pact on the Amer­i­can asy­lum sys­tem,” said the Feb. 1 state­ment from Nancy Caron.

Caron said the agree­ment is fo­cused on how to han­dle peo­ple who show up at ei­ther land border to make asy­lum claims, not the re­set­tled refugees cov­ered by Trump’s edict. Even if they were cov­ered, the deal op­er­ates in­de­pen­dently of any ex­ec­u­tive or­ders, she added.

Henry Giroux, an Amer­i­can­born cul­tural critic and pro­fes­sor at McMaster Univer­sity, said it’s no won­der refugees don’t feel safe in the States.

“It seems to me that when you have seven coun­tries largely pop­u­lated by Mus­lims la­belled as ter­ror­ist coun­tries, when in fact al­most none of those coun­tries has ac­tu­ally been re­spon­si­ble for a ter­ror­ist act in the United States, it in­stills an enor­mous amount of fear in peo­ple. An enor­mous amount of in­se­cu­rity,” he said.

Zool Sule­man, of Sule­man and Co. in Van­cou­ver, said he’s re­ceived calls from peo­ple orig­i­nally from Mex­ico, Cen­tral Amer­ica, South Amer­ica and Africa — not just claimants from Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries.

“I’m hear­ing from peo­ple who are al­ready in Amer­ica and do not feel that they will get a fair hear­ing. And there has been a no­tice­able in­crease in these types of calls since the ex­ec­u­tive or­ders took place,” he said.

DAR­RYL DYCK, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Sina Ghotbi, who came to Canada from Iran in 2009, plays a Per­sian drum while at­tend­ing a No Wall, No Ban rally at the Peace Arch-Dou­glas border cross­ing be­tween Canada and the United States, in Sur­rey, B.C., on Sunday.

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