The Conservatives’ recently announced anti-immigration plan will harm asylum seekers, undermine the integrity of the refugee claims process, and could lead to the creation of detention centres at the border.
On Wednesday, Andrew Scheer pledged that if elected, his government would renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which allows asylum seekers to make a refugee claim even if they enter at an unofficial border crossing, and move refugee judges closer to ‘hotspots’ along the border to help expedite refugee claims.
“Sending judges closer to the border, and preventing asylum seekers from entering Canada until their claim is processed, is eerily similar to the United States’ approach of holding refugees at detention centres, which has led to horrendous human rights abuses,” said Crystal Warner, National Executive Vice-President of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU).
Processing refugees at the border will make it harder for asylum-seekers to access a lawyer, health care, education and employment, and takes judges away from administration staff and translators who play a key role in processing claims in a fair and transparent manner.
“Our members are experts at their jobs, they are fair and compassionate, and these measures not only undermine their expertise, but further risk the integrity and autonomy of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, which ultimately is about due process,” added Warner.
Renegotiating the Safe Third Country Agreement also won’t impact the current refugee claims process. The right to make a refugee claim doesn’t stem from the STCA; it’s a right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If refugee claimants say they’re at risk in their home country, their claim must be adjudicated before they can be moved anywhere, including back to the U.S.
“Scheer’s ill-conceived immigration plan will jeopardize both asylum-seekers and the integrity of Canada’s refugee process without any noticeable gain,” said Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada national president. “Any future government needs to focus on hiring more staff to process refugee claims, not moving them closer to the border.”