Media Release

For Immediate Release
16 November 2006

The long overdue governmental report on the first year of the Safe Third Country Agreement, made public today, fails to address the fundamental question of the impact of the Agreement on refugees, say the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International Canada.  The report was produced by the governments of Canada and the US, with input from the UNHCR.
“The governments’ review did not ask the right questions,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President.  “Our main criticism of the Agreement has always been that it would lead to refugees being sent back to persecution.  Yet the review does not look at the fate of the refugees for whom Canada’s door is now closed.”
The review of the implementation of the Agreement is mandated by the Agreement itself, which calls for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to play a monitoring role.  The UNHCR’s comments are certainly constructive, and the governments’ attention to them is welcome.  However, UNHCR’s monitoring focused on whether the Agreement was being correctly applied, and not whether the Agreement, when correctly applied, has devastating impacts on the lives of asylum seekers, as refugee advocates believe.
Amnesty International continues to be concerned that the United States is not a safe place for all refugees.  Some people can be refused protection in the United States because they provided ‘material support’, (such as providing money or shelter), to ‘terrorist organizations’, even if they were forced to provide the support.  This can have very serious consequences for individuals from countries such as Colombia, where people who are regularly forced pay ‘protection’ money to armed guerrilla and paramilitary groups, under threat of death. Making the payment means that you can be denied protection in the United States.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, in its report of December 2002, raised a number of concerns about the impacts of the Safe Third Country Agreement, notably with respect to women fleeing gender-based violence and people being increasingly forced to resort to dangerous and irregular border crossings.  Despite the commitments made by the government in its May 2003 response to the Committee, the review fails to provide meaningful examination of the effects of the Agreement in these areas of concern.
The failure to publish the report until now, when it is already out-of-date, is an indication of the two governments’ lack of interest in being accountable with respect to the impact of the Agreement on asylum seekers.
The CCR published its own report on the first year of Safe Third: “Closing The Front Door On Refugees”, December 2005.  (See release, 29 December 2005)
The CCR, AI and the Canadian Council of Churches have launched a court challenge of the safe third country agreement.  The hearing is scheduled for February 2007.  (See release, 29 March 2006)
Colleen French, Communications Coordinator, CCR (514) 277-7223 (ext. 1)
Beth Berton-Hunter, Media & External Communications Officer, AI, 416-363-9933 (ext 32)