Canada broke the law by banning asylum seekers from crossing the U.S. border at irregular entry points during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new court challenge.
The challenge filed Tuesday by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers indicates that the government is violating its international obligations to refugees.
He alleges that by returning these asylum seekers to detention in the United States and potential deportation to their countries of origin – the Canadian government exposes them to the prospect of torture, persecution and even death. .
“We launched this challenge to give a voice to vulnerable people during the pandemic who seek the protection of Canada and who face dire consequences when returned to the United States at our border,” said Maureen Silcoff, President and co-advisor of the association in the case.
“Refugee claimants can be immediately jailed when handed over to US border officials, and then deported to their country of origin without having had a chance to make their case in Canada. It’s illegal. “
According to legal enforcement against the Ministers of Justice, Immigration and Public Safety, Ottawa has issued 14 Orders in Council under the Quarantine Act to restrict movement at the Canada-U.S. Border to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While those arriving at an official port of entry are allowed entry if they meet certain exemptions – such as having family members in Canada – others who attempt to pass through unattended ports of entry, such as at Roxham Road in Quebec, are returned to the United States with the exception of U.S. citizens, ordinarily stateless U.S. residents or certain unaccompanied minors.
Silcoff said advocates have seen a number of cases in which potential asylum seekers have been turned back at the border and ended up being detained and threatened with deportation from the United States.
Last month, the Star reported on the case of Roberto Carlos Teran Rivera, a man from Nicaragua, and his unsuccessful attempt to cross the border to seek asylum and join his wife in Canada. He was turned over to US authorities and detained pending deportation.
The legal demand alleges the government failed to consider “reasonable alternatives” for those seeking asylum in Canada in its border measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Specifically, the legal challenge calls for asylum seekers to be allowed in and self-quarantine, like other travelers whose entry is deemed essential.
“We made exceptions for essential workers, actors, professional athletes and family members of Canadians and permanent residents, and thousands of people entered Canada at the U.S. border during the pandemic because we have deemed their trip essential, ”says Lorne Waldman, co-counsel in the case.
“The least we can do for those seeking refugee protection at our border is to make sure we follow the law. This means that they cannot be denied access to a fair hearing in our refugee protection system. Returning them when they risk prison in the United States jeopardizes that right. ”
A spokesperson for Justice Minister David Lametti declined to comment on the case, citing that the case is pending before the courts.