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Canadian Humanitarians Wonder If The U.S. Is Still Safe For Refugees

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Kathleen Masterson
/
VPR
With more migrants crossing illegally into Canada at points such as this one, in New York, Canadian advocates are calling on their government to pull out of a program that was designed to prevent asylum-seekers from moving from the U.S. to Canada.

Several aid organizations and pro-immigrant groups are pressuring the Canadian government to pull out of a controversial program that turns away almost all refugees coming in through the United States.

Canada started thinking about ways to regulate the flow of refugees across its borders back in the 1980s. That's how the nation came up with the idea for a Safe Third Country agreement with the United States. You’ll find versions of it all over the world — a deal among nations where people tend to seek asylum. It usually says refugees have to stay in the first safe country they can get to.

In 2002, Canada officially declared the U.S. was just as safe. If refugees land there, most have to stay there and make their case for asylum.

Aid groups were never a fan of this policy: Amnesty International challenged the deal in court and lost on appeal. But now, several other organizations have joined Amnesty's Canada chapter in saying the Safe Third Country deal is severely outdated.

"It’s time for Canada to stop pretending in our asylum system that the United States is a safe country and to open up the possibility for refugee claimants who pass through the United States to turn to Canada for protection instead," said Alex Neve, Amnesty's secretary general in Canada.

Read the rest of the story from North Country Public Radio's Lauren Rosenthal.

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