Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lawyers Call for Changes to Safe Third Country Agreement amid Influx of Refugees

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lawyers Call for Changes to Safe Third Country Agreement amid Influx of Refugees

Article excerpt

Lawyers face influx of refugee clients

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Immigration lawyers say they've received an influx of requests from refugees in the U.S. hoping to seek asylum in Canada -- despite an agreement that makes it nearly impossible.

The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement requires people to apply for asylum in the first country where they arrive, unless an immediate family member lives in the other country.

The Canadian government has faced pressure to repeal the agreement since President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. But Canada's government has so far refused.

Alastair Clarke, of Clarke Immigration Law in Winnipeg, said that's a mistake. He said 10 new clients have been referred to him in the last week -- some of whom crossed the border on foot, successfully bypassing border points so they could make their refugee claims once already in the country.

It's a method police say is on the rise -- the RCMP said 21 people were arrested for illegally crossing the border into Emerson, Man., Saturday.

Clarke said it's putting people at risk.

"They're crossing farmer fields on foot," he added. "When it's -10, -15 with the wind chill factors, it's highly risky."

He noted that refugees are avoiding coming through border crossing points because they fear that if they get turned away from the border due to the Safe Third Country Agreement, they won't be able to file for refugee status in Canada later on.

He said the agreement should either be "repealed, amended or suspended."

"The refugees who are coming into Canada do not feel safe in the United States," he said.

The federal government did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday, but earlier this month, a spokesperson said the government wouldn't suspend the agreement.

"Our government has no indication that the executive order has any impact on the American asylum system,'' said the Feb. 1 statement from Nancy Caron.

Caron said the agreement is focused on how to handle people who show up at either land border to make asylum claims, not the resettled refugees covered by Trump's edict. …

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