New Brunswick Tribune

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Among Border Crossings, Canada Ends Covid Policy of Turning Back Asylum-Seekers

Key takeaways:

  • Canada is modifying its policy of sending back asylum seekers attempting to enter the country between ports of entry, which it adopted during the pandemic.
  • The action was deemed necessary by Canada due to health concerns during the coronavirus outbreak. 

According to an updated policy statement posted on Sunday, Canada is changing its pandemic-era policy of turning back asylum-seekers attempting to enter the country between ports of entry.

Between March 2020 through mid-October, Canada returned at least 544 would-be refugees to the United States. 

The government did not immediately respond to concerns about why the provision was being phased out now and what, if any, quarantine regulations would apply to unvaccinated asylum applicants.

Also read: Staff shortages are rising as a result of the N.B. vaccination policy

The action was deemed necessary by Canada due to health concerns during the coronavirus outbreak. However, refugee advocates maintained that applying for asylum should not be considered “discretionary travel,” citing class exemptions granted to elite sports and others during the pandemic.

“It’s reassuring to see the refugee measures align more closely with our international obligations, and I believe it’s been clear all along that public health and refugee protection can coexist,” said Maureen Silcoff, a refugee lawyer and past president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, which sued the government over the policy.

It didn’t make sense, according to Silcoff, to allow tourists through while rejecting people seeking safety, as Canada has begun to do.

According to refugee lawyers working on their cases, an unknown number of asylum seekers who were turned back were detained indefinitely in the United States, and at least two were deported.

Since the policy’s inception, exemptions have been available. In August, Canada began allowing more turned-back asylum-seekers to return and submit refugee claims as parts of a “managed approach to reopening the border.”

However, proponents argue that this alternative is only available to individuals aware of it or who have legal counsel versed with Canada’s shifting system. Last month, the government defended the program in court.

Following the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States, asylum applicants seeking to cross at official entrance ports are turned back. 

The transaction, which has been challenged twice, was recently upheld and might now be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Source: NDTV

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