CANADA, U.S. AND THE POLITICS OF REFUGEES
SINCE 2005, Canada and the U.S. have managed the flow of refugees at their shared land border crossings through the Safe Third Country Agreement.
Under the agreement, refugee claimants are required to seek protection of the first country they arrived in.
But there are some exceptions to the agreement that allow refugee claimants who arrived in the U.S. first to cross the border to Canada and make their claim here.
The exceptions include:
A family member living in Canada who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, protected person or successful refugee claimant. A qualifying family member includes: spouse or common-law partner, legal guardian, child, father or mother, brother or sister, grandfather or grandmother, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece, grandchild;
Unaccompanied minors under age 18 who are unmarried with no parent or legal guardian in Canada or the U.S.;
Holders of certain documents, including a valid Canadian visa, valid work permit, valid study permit, a travel document for permanent residents or refugees;
A national of a country, such as Mexico, where visas are not required to enter Canada but are required to enter the U.S.;
A public interest exception for those who have been charged with or convicted of an offence that could subject them to the death penalty in the U.S. or in a third country. A refugee claimant is ineligible, however if he or she has been found inadmissible in Canada on the grounds of security, for violating human or international rights, or for serious crimes, or if the government determines the person is a danger to the public.
A LARGE PROPORTION of refugee claimants entering Canada from the U.S. are attempting to use the family member exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement.
Making a successful refugee claim is a two-step process in Canada.
The first step, which occurs at a border entry point such as the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, simply allows the asylum seeker into Canada to then make the actual refugee claim, which must be submitted within 15 days.
A refugee claimant arriving at the Peace Bridge will be interviewed and screened by agents from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to determine if the asylum seekers meet one of the exceptions to the agreement. If so, they are allowed entry. No determination is made at that time, however, about the validity of the claim.
It’s the second step that determines the ultimate fate of the asylum seeker. Usually within 60 days — although the surge in cases recently is causing a number of postponements — the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) will hear the merits of the claim and make a decision.
A refugee is someone who is outside their home country or the country they normally live in and is unable to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.
If returned to that country, these people risk the danger of torture, risk to their life, or risk cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
A resident at the Vive centre wears a GPS-tracking ankle monitor. Women and children are dropped off there by U.S. border officials, men are generally detained.