Jan. 30, 2017 – In an Open Letter to Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Amnesty International’s Canadian and US Sections, representing close to 2 million people in the two countries, have today called on the Canadian government immediately and urgently to rescind designation of the United States as a “safe third country” for the purposes of refugee determination.
The designation, pursuant to an agreement reached between the two countries in 2002, took effect in December 2004. Its effect is to deny access to the Canadian refugee determination system for most refugee claimants who pass through the United States before continuing to Canada. They are instead required to make their claims for protection in the United States. The designation of the United States as a “safe third country” had been overturned by a Federal Court judge in 2007, but that was reversed on procedural grounds by the Federal Court of Appeal in 2008.
Amnesty International has called on Canada to rescind the designation of the United States on an urgent basis due to a range of troubling measures implemented through Executive Orders issued by US President Donald Trump on January 25 and 27, 2017 which violate numerous binding international refugee and human rights legal provisions.
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Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch, said: “The assault on fundamental human rights norms with respect to refugee protection, equality, fairness and religious freedom in the United States this week has been staggering and has rightly attracted condemnation around the world. It would be unconscionable, immoral and unlawful for Canada to pretend that the United States remains a “safe” partner for the purposes of refugee protection. Designation of the United States as a safe third country must be rescinded with immediate effect.”
Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnesty International Canada’s francophone branch said: “Over the weekend Prime Minister Trudeau very importantly reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to refugee protection for individuals of all faiths and backgrounds through a tweet that has attracted considerable attention in Canada, the United States and around the world. Now it is time to back up that commendable sentiment through concrete measures that make it clear that Canada is opposed to what is happening with US refugee policy. Rescinding designation of the United States as a safe third country is an important first step.”