News   /   More

Canada court rules pact sending refugees back to US violates their rights

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Migrants, refugees, undocumented workers and their supporters rally outside the office of Canada's Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in Toronto, Ontario, Canada July 4, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

A Canadian federal court has invalidated a long-standing asylum pact with the United States, arguing that America is no longer "safe" for refugees and violates their rights. 

Under the 2004 pact, called the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), refugees who arrive at formal Canada-US border crossings from either direction are turned back and told to apply for asylum in the country they first arrived in.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald declared the deal unconstitutional, saying sending refugees back to the United States, where they face imprisonment, violates "the right to life, liberty and security of the person.”

She further said "the applicants have provided significant evidence of the risks and challenges faced by STCA ineligible claimants when they are returned to the US."

“I have concluded that the actions of Canadian authorities in enforcing the [Safe Third Country Agreement] result in ineligible STCA claimants being imprisoned by US authorities,” the judge wrote. “I have concluded that imprisonment and the attendant consequences are inconsistent with the spirit and objective of the STCA.”

The ruling marks a major victory for lawyers and advocacy groups who have been calling on Canada to end the agreement with the US, arguing that it is no longer a “safe” country for asylum seekers.

Nedira Jemal Mustefa, one of the refugees forced to remain in the US, told the court her time in US solitary confinement was "a terrifying, isolating and psychologically traumatic experience," according to the court ruling.

“Canada cannot turn a blind eye to the consequences that befell Ms. Mustefa in its efforts to adhere to the STCA. The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the US by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty,” McDonald wrote in her decision.

Canada’s justice department has 30 days to decide whether they want to appeal the ruling. If the government does not appeal, the decision will come into effect in six months.

However, if they do appeal, the decision will be put on hold until the appeal is decided in court.

US President Donald Trump’s anti-refugee policies have prompted many to leave the country to seek for asylum in Canada. Over the past four years, more than 50,000 people have illegally crossed the Canada-US border to file refugee claims.

Canada has asked the United States to amend the STCA to make it easier to turn back those who enter at irregular crossings.

In March, it said it would no longer accept irregular migrants trying to cross the border and would instead return them to US authorities, who have said they will swiftly deport them back to their home countries.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers said Canada should revisit that decision, given Wednesday’s ruling, and also revoke a 2019 rule that makes individuals ineligible for Canadian asylum if they had already filed for asylum in the United States.

This comes as Canada has closed its border with the United States to non-essential travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku