Canada court upholds pact on returning asylum seekers to US

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld an immigration accord on Friday, allowing officials to prevent asylum seekers from the United States from entering the nation.

According to the Safe Third nation Agreement, which went into effect in 2004, applicants for asylum must submit their documents in the first safe nation they landed in after leaving their home country.

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The judges unanimously ruled that the accord did “not infringe refugee claimants’ rights to liberty and security.”

A Federal Court judge nullified the arrangement in July 2020 after finding that it went against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because individuals who were sent back to the US were subjected to subpar confinement conditions.

On behalf of claimants, including an Ethiopian woman who was detained in solitary confinement for a week in a US detention facility after being removed by Canadian authorities, advocacy groups contested the agreement’s legitimacy.

Judge Nicholas Kasirer concluded in his judgement on Friday that even while asylum seekers “face real and not speculative risks of refoulement from the United States, the Canadian legislative scheme provides safety valves that guard against such risks.”

The Federal Court should reconsider its stance toward female asylum seekers who “fear persecution on the basis of their gender,” the Supreme Court said.

“For many refugees, in particular those who identify as women and are from the LGBTQIA+ communities, the US is not a safe country,” the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said.

They face risk of being placed in “arbitrary detention and solitary confinement in the US, and then being returned to a country where they face persecution, torture or death.”

Amnesty International Canada called on Ottawa to withdraw from the agreement as soon as possible.

“The Safe Third Country Agreement does push refugees, particularly those fleeing gender-based persecution, at serious risk of refoulement,” Secretary General Ketty Nivyabandi said at a press briefing.

Since March, migrants can now be turned away from both sides of the border.

Previously, the agreement did not include asylum seekers who entered Canada at points other than authorized ports of entry, such Roxham Road south of Montreal.

40,000 migrants from the United States entered the country through this crossing in 2022.

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