Canada warns of ‘ripple effect’ if ruling striking down refugee pact with US stands
The Canadian government has asked that a previous court ruling in the country that struck down a bilateral refugee agreement with the U.S. be reversed, saying the action could cause “an influx of refugee claimants.”
As reported Monday by The Star, Ottawa fears that the decision by the courts coupled with the reopening of the Canada-U.S. border could result in a huge surge of refugees who would normally have been sent to the U.S. under the original agreement.
In July, a Canadian court decision designated the U.S. as unsafe for refugees, meaning an agreement that has stood in place since 2004 can no longer stand. The court cited the poor conditions that refugees were facing in the U.S, and the arrangement is now scheduled to end Jan. 22.
“While the court gave Parliament six months to remedy the law, the government has squandered that opportunity in favour of an appeal,” said Justin Mohammed of Amnesty International Canada, which was part of the teams of litigants that successfully struck down the agreement. “We are hopeful that the Federal Court of Appeal will affirm the deadline, so that no refugee protection claimant will be handed over by Canada to face the horrors of U.S. immigration detention past January 2021.”
The Star reports that Ottawa is hoping the court will extend the deadline until a complete appeal can be heard at a later date.
“An influx of refugee claimants will impair the sustainability of the systems that support refugee claimants while their claims are pending,” the Canadian government said in its motion. “Provincial and municipal governments are struggling to provide housing and social services.”
Despite acknowledging that the current U.S. refugee system may be unacceptable, Canada argues that local and federal governments are already struggling with more 50,000 asylum-seekers currently in the country. It says that a surge of immigration would have a “negative ripple effects and backlogs.”
Critics of the original agreement have said that the U.S. government’s treatment of refugees is cruel and inhumane, more so since President Trump took office in 2016. They also claim that the government’s warnings of irreversible harm are not based on facts but on pure speculation and that despite what the government has said, the coronavirus pandemic has made it harder for asylum-seekers and will not create unpredictable numbers.