For immediate release
24 December 2004
REFUGEE CAMP IN SCHOOL BUSES AT FORT ERIE BORDER
Montreal. The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) called
on the Canadian government to respond compassionately to the basic needs
of refugee claimants trying to make a refugee claim at the Fort Erie border.
Several hundred refugee claimants arrived 23 December and more are expected
to arrive today. The claimants are currently being held in buses at
the border, as they wait hours for appointments in sub-zero temperatures.
The CCR urges that the claimants be admitted to Canada pending their processing
and given adequate shelter. There are shelters in the region willing to
accommodate the refugees in a more humanitarian way while their cases are
The claimants came to the border after waiting days or weeks in Buffalo
to hear how they could make a claim before Canada closes its doors on refugees
on 29 December, when the safe third country agreement comes into effect.
With time running out and no measures offered by the Canadian government
to accommodate them, they realized that they had no choice but to present
themselves at the Canadian border or lose their opportunity to claim Canada’s
“This crisis could have been avoided,” said Nick Summers, President.
“Implementing the agreement over the holiday season, when many services
are closed, is an obvious mistake. In addition, implementation was
announced only 30 days in advance, and the government’s response has clearly
Having witnessed the conditions at the border, CCR Vice-President Amy Casipullai
said she was “appalled” by the way the refugee claimants were being treated.
“There was utter chaos, and refugees, many of them without winter clothing,
were forced to wait hours in the freezing cold. The Canadian government
closed its doors to refugees on December 23. The real heroes of the
day were members of the local community including NGOs and the local Tim
Hortons that donated food.”
The Canadian Council for Refugees is opposed to the safe third country
measures, which will put Canada at risk of violating its obligation not
to send refugees back to persecution.
Nick Summers, President, (709) 682-9329
Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223 (ext. 2)