Canadian Law Group

Update on Asylum Seekers in Canada

By Véronique Malka

The Canadian government recently announced its plans to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) to change the laws of applying for asylum status in both the United States and Canada. According to the STCA, when asylum seekers would attempt to cross the border to Canada or the United States, the customs officers are required to turn them away, and encourage them to apply for asylum when they are back in the country they arrived from.         

However, Canadian officials are displeased with this rule, and want to modify it to allow asylum seekers to apply for asylum at the border. In the past year and a half, over 25,000 people have crossed the Canada-U.S. and U.S.-Canada borders, seeking asylum in the two countries. This is concerning to the border officials, as the number only seems to be growing, and at an alarming rate. The highest rates of intercepted asylum seekers have been during the summer, so we are expecting large waves this summer as well.

Border officers are no longer able to intercept the amount of asylum seekers, even though border officers are on patrol 24 hours a day. This is a clearly unprecedented wave of mass immigration in both countries, and regulations must change in order to adapt to the crisis. Statistically speaking, around 80 to 85% of asylum seekers come from Haiti, and over 50% of Haitians who requested asylum in 2016. Haitians are slowly moving away from the United States, as the U.S. Haiti Temporary Protection Status program, which gave them legal status in the U.S., ended abruptly this year. They are now looking to Canada for refuge, but admission as an asylee is not as simple as it may seem.

Currently, the U.S. government declared that they were against the modifications to the STCA, however, this might change. The U.S. is evermore impacted by this crisis, as the United States is often the country asylum seekers arrived from, and therefore, they are asked to return into the country to apply for asylum in Canada. By allowing asylum seekers to apply directly at the Canadian border, it would reduce the amount of asylum seekers staying temporarily in the United States, waiting for approval from the Canadian government.

It is evident that the changes to the STCA could potentially alleviate the different worries both incoming asylum seekers and border patrol officers could have, and reduce the amount of illegal crossings between the two countries.

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