Comment: Now Trump’s cruel border policy is spreading in Canada

At nearly 4,000 miles, the northern border of the United States is about twice the length of the US-Mexico border—much of it wild, unmarked, and dangerously cold half the year. And yet people smuggling and deaths on the US-Canada border were not a big phenomenon like they were in the South. Nor has Canada poured billions of dollars into a network of walls, fences, robotic dogs, and militarized border patrols. It is also true that the number of asylum seekers and migrants seeking to enter Canada has historically been relatively small.

But the evils at the US-Mexico border seem bound to spread north after Canada reached a deal with the Biden administration to expand a 2004 deal to allow asylum seekers traveling to Canada back to the United States (and vice versa) expel.

As US policy towards asylum seekers became tougher from 2017, attempts to enter Canada increased elevated. Instead of appealing to its southern neighbors to do better, Canada is coordinating with the US to accept the legal obligation to protect refugees that both countries made when they signed the Refugee Convention and Protocol more than 50 years ago . Their current approach shifts the blame to poorer, less stable countries that are already doing more than their share.

Both the US and Canada have pursued this under a “safe third country” Rule allowing a country to return asylum seekers to a country they have transited through on their journey if it is considered safe and offers a fair procedure for seeking protection. This “safe third country” is then responsible for determining their claims.

Efforts by the former Trump administration to apply this logic to the southern border were repeated dejected determined by the courts that Mexico and other transit countries are not safe.

Canada has followed the same approach since 2004, when it joined the agreement Agreement between Canada and the USA on safe third countries. At that time, about 14,000 asylum seekers a year sought to enter Canada along the US border, and a few hundred went in the opposite direction. By its very nature, the agreement applied only to migrants arriving at official ports of entry on land. A Parliamentary Committee warned in 2002 that Canada should stand ready to withdraw from the agreement if the agreement led to increased irregular border crossings.

After Trump’s election, more asylum seekers headed north, and to avoid being turned back, they arrived between the official ports of entry. Biden’s failure to reverse Trump’s worst policies has left more people hoping for a chance at shelter in Canada. Last year approx 40,000 entered Canada at an informal border crossing called Roxham Road in Quebec.

This has been called a crisis, but it just isn’t, especially when you think about it 85% of refugees worldwide are housed in low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, Canada knows how to handle refugee flows gracefully when it chooses to: Over 160,000 Ukrainian refugees were welcomed last year.

But instead of canceling the agreement, Canada negotiated an extension of the agreement to include safe third countries. Now it can send many more people back to the US to apply for asylum – not just those who entered at official ports of entry, but also those who entered anywhere else along the land border.

Activists brought legal challenges to end the 2004 deal, but in the meantime the two governments are expanding it. This includes, among other things, a Workcreation program for smugglers at the border.

have legal proceedings in Canada twice reigns against politics. The Supreme Court of Canada is currently given an appeal to the legality of the Safe Third Country Agreement, based on claims that the US is not a “safe” third country – because it keeps asylum seekers in abusive conditions (including solitary confinement) and denies refugees a fair chance to prove it would at a deportation to be prosecuted. And the situation in the US has only gotten worse since the court’s verdict.

Consider what the US intends to do with asylum seekers sent from Canada. It would pass the buck to Mexico and other countries south of the border by labeling them safe and proposing regulations (referred to by many as the “asylum ban”), which allows the US, with limited exceptions, to deny asylum to those who have transited through these countries without having applied for asylum.

A number of these nations, such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaraguahave miserable human rights conditionsand are consequently countries of origin for a significant proportion of asylum seekers. They also lack everything that comes close to functioning asylum systems.

The Safe Third Country Agreement and related policies undermine the obligations that Canada and the US have under international refugee law. They undermine the existing global protection system. But most tragically, they abandon principle and humanity, setting off a chain reaction that leads to fugitives being subjected to persecution.

Karen Musalo is a law professor and founding director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Law, San Francisco. Audrey Macklin is Director of the Center for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto.

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