Canada’s policy during the pandemic of turning back asylum seekers trying to enter between official border crossings is illegal and violates their rights, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court claiming the policy is illegal because it fails to take into account the plight of refugee claimants and the issue of refugee law. find out if reasonable alternatives are available.
The policy also denies asylum seekers their right to a hearing, according to a copy of the lawsuit seen by Reuters.
This is the first legal action against this policy since it was instituted in response to COVID-19 in March 2020.
Between March 21, 2020 and April 20, 2021, Canada turned back 387 asylum seekers who were trying to move from one port of entry to another, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
Even though Canada has said it may return later to make a refugee claim, the lawsuit argues that Canada does not guarantee that the refusal of refugees is temporary.
Canada has already declared that the rollback policy, which it renews monthly, is a necessary public health measure. Canada also claims to have assurances from the United States that “most” asylum seekers will be returned to Canada to claim refugee status.
But the United States has deported at least one refouled asylum seeker under the policy, according to the man’s lawyer and correspondence seen by Reuters. Others were held in a detention center.
A spokeswoman for Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said she could not comment on the specific lawsuit.
But, she wrote in an email: “We are in an unprecedented global pandemic. The border is closed to all non-residents of Canada, with very rare exceptions. … At present, people should not travel unless it is absolutely necessary or for recognized essential purposes. ”
Burundian Apollinaire Nduwimana attempted to enter Canada in October at Roxham Road, which has become a common destination for asylum seekers by avoiding the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA).
Under the STCA, asylum seekers crossing at an official port of entry along the Canada-U.S. Border are returned and are often detained in the United States. Last month, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the disputed deal after a lower court ruled that the pact violated the basic rights of asylum seekers under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Nduwimana aimed to avoid being turned back under the STCA, to be turned back under the new policy. Canadian border services officers turned him over to US authorities who he said took him to the Immigrant Detention Center in Batavia, New York.
According to his lawyers, the American authorities have tried on several occasions to deport him to Burundi, where Canada has postponed the deportations for reasons of humanitarian crisis.
Nduwimana is not directly affected by this legal action. But his case demonstrates the potential repercussions of the policy, lawyers say.
He was allowed to enter Canada under an exemption from the removal policy after being detained for five months. He has now applied for asylum.
He was one of nine returned asylum seekers who were granted a national interest exemption letter by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino. According to the government, seven have come to Canada.
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