Media Release

For immediate release
24 December 2004


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 being processed.

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 protection.

“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 been inadequate.”

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)

The Canadian Council for Refugees is a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. The membership is made up of over 180 organizations involved in refugee sponsorship and protection and in newcomer settlement. The CCR serves the networking, information-exchange and advocacy needs of its membership.