Canada was taken to court over COVID-19 policy that pushes asylum seekers in America


TORONTO – Canada’s policy of withdrawing refugees trying to cross the official age limit is illegal and violates their rights, a legal action was filed on Tuesday.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers took legal action in federal court, claiming that it was unlawful because it failed to consider the status of asylum seekers and whether they had appropriate options available.

According to a copy of the legal action seen by Reuters, the policy also deprives refugees of their right to be heard.

This is the first legal action against this policy since it was instituted in response to COVID-19 in March 2020.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, between March 21, 2020 and April 20, 2021, Canada returned 387 refugees trying to cross between ports of entry.

Even though Canada said they could return at a later date to make refugee claims, legal action argues that Canada is not ensuring that refugees stay away is temporary.

Canada has previously stated that the turn-back policy, which it is renewing monthly, is an essential public health measure. Canada also says that there is an assurance from the US that “most” refugees will be returned to Canada to pursue asylum claims.

But according to the man’s lawyer and correspondence seen by Reuters, the United States sent at least one asylum seeker back under this policy. Others were housed in a detention center.

A spokesman for Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he could not comment specifically on the legal action.

But, she wrote in an email, “We are in an unprecedented global epidemic. The border is closed to all non-residents of Canada, with very few exceptions. … At this time, people should not travel, unless Lest it be. For absolutely necessary or recognized essential purposes. “

Burundian Apollinaire Naduvimna tried to cross into Canada on Roxam Road in October, which has become a common destination for refugees escaping the Secure Third Country Agreement (STCA).

Under STCA, refugees crossing a formal port of entry along the Canada-US border are routed and often placed in US immigration detention. Last month, the federal court of appeals upheld the settlement fought by a lower court following a treaty ruling that violated fundamental rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

Naduvimana aimed to avoid going back under STCA, only to be returned under the new policy. Canadian border officials handed him over to US officials who, he says, brought him to an immigration detention center in Batavia, New York.

According to his lawyers, US officials tried several times to deport him to Burundi, with Canada postponing deportation for reasons of humanitarian crisis.

Naduvimana is not directly affected by this legal action. But his case reflects the possible consequences of this policy, lawyers say.

He was allowed to enter Canada under a waiver in the turn-back policy after being detained for five months. He has now filed a refugee claim.

He was one of nine, given a national interest exemption letter to refugees by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino. According to the government, seven have arrived in Canada.

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