31 January 2003.  Montreal.  The Canadian Council for Refugees expressed shock at the news that on Thursday Canada directed some 30 refugee claimants back from the border to the US, where some were detained.

Many refugee claimants at the border are of nationalities targeted by recent discriminatory registration programs in the US.  Instead of assisting the victims of these McCarthy-like initiatives, Canada is complicit in the measures by returning them to detention in the US.

“We are now seeing the human cost of the government’s January 27th policy reversal on direct backs,” said Kemi Jacobs, President. “These refugee claimants came believing that Canada was a safe country, but instead they have been thrown back into detention in the US, without any consideration of their case by the Canadian authorities.”

According to Patrick Giantonio, Vermont Refugee Assistance, “many of the asylum seekers who are at the moment being returned to the US to await their appointment dates will never make it back to the border to actually make their claim.  They will be taken into custody by INS and detained.  We say ‘detained’ but we really shouldn’t soften the language.  It’s jail - plain and simple; often with criminals; often harsh and quite often for months or years.”

On January 27 the government issued instructions stating that refugee claimants who cannot be immediately processed on arrival in Canada may be given an appointment to return to Canada a few days later and directed back to the US to wait for the appointment, even if the claimants will be detained by the US and therefore unable to return to Canada forr their appointment.

“These new procedures are a farce which makes a mockery of Canada’s refugee system,” said Jacobs.  “We pretend to give claimants the opportunity to ask for Canada’s protection, but then we hand them over to the Americans to be detained.”

For more information, please contact:

Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223
Kemi Jacobs, President (416) 781-4678
Patrick Giantonio (802) 456-7444