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Refugees and Migrants

    November 13, 2019

    After an inspiring, challenging and eventful week at the Federal Court in Toronto, it is worth taking a moment for some final reflections on the court challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) which took place from November 4-8, 2019. 

    November 08, 2019

    Jaya Bordeleau-Cass and André Capretti are the 2019-2020 Public Interest Articling Fellows at Amnesty International Canada. They will be posting updates about the Safe Third Country Agreement hearing throughout the week.

    The brief and frustrating answer: it’s unclear what it takes. 

    Submissions in the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) challenge continued to be delivered from November 4-8th at the Federal Court in Toronto. Earlier this week, counsel for the applicants – representing Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Council of Churches, and other individual litigants – provided a general overview of the requirements for a safe third country designation, why it is unlawful, and why the operation of the agreement violates the security and equality rights of STCA returnees.

    November 06, 2019

    Jaya Bordeleau-Cass and André Capretti are the 2019-2020 Public Interest Articling Fellows at Amnesty International Canada. They will be posting updates about the Safe Third Country Agreement hearing throughout the week.

    Shame. Frustration. Rage. Disappointment.  

    Court hearings can be dry, but when we listen to the facts and stories presented over the past two days in the challenge to the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), it is hard not to have an emotional reaction.

    On the second day of the hearings in Toronto, counsel for the applicants – Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and individual refugee claimants – continued to present their legal arguments and reviewed how the STCA violates equality rights under section 15 of the Canadian Charter, and the rights to liberty and security of the person under section 7.

    November 05, 2019

    Today marked the first day of a week-long hearing, in which the applicants - Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches, and individual refugee claimants - are challenging the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (the STCA) in Federal Court before Justice Ann Marie McDonald.

    “Year after year, month after month, Canada willfully turns its back on refugee claimants at the border.”

    The applicants’ opening remarks, delivered by Mr. Andrew Brouwer, set the stage for the day’s arguments, which reviewed the facts, the evidence and administrative law issues.

    October 31, 2019

    From October 22th to 26th, Amnesty Canada's Alex Neve joined a global Amnesty delegation to monitor the impact of anti-asylum policies at the US-Mexico border. They met with the consul general of Mexico in San Diego, the National Commission of Human Rights in Tijuana, visited shelters in Tijuana and San Diego, met with NGOs and UN agencies on both sides of the border, and met with legal aid providers and toured a shelter for unaccompanied children in Brownsville, TX. On their last day, the group crossed the border into Matamoros, Mexico to speak with families and others who have been affected by the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.

    Matamoros, Mexico

    “Some days we cry.  Some days we laugh.  And we are here to lift each other up when we are down.”

    October 10, 2019
    Andrew Scheer standing behind a podium labelled 'Fair Immigration Equitable'

    On 10 October 2019, Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, went to Roxham Road in Quebec to announce a revised “immigration policy,” including closing the “loophole” in the Safe Third Country Agreement. The news release continuously uses the disparaging and inaccurate term “illegal” to describe people who are exercising their legal and human rights to seek refugee protection in Canada, and irresponsibly conflates Canada’s refugee protection system with it’s immigration system.

    Alongside a number of courageous refugee protection claimants, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council of Refugees and the Canadian Council of Churches are challenging the Safe Third Country Agreement in Federal Court on 4-8 November 2019.  These organizations will argue that the United States is not safe for many refugees, particularly under the harsh policies adopted by President Donald Trump’s administration.

    We’ve made some notes to help Andrew Scheer better communicate about refugees, and perhaps reconsider some of the policy proposals included in this press release.

    June 20, 2019

    Millions across the Americas are fleeing human rights violations in their countries, seeking protection. Refugees are people who find themselves with no choice other than to leave their lives behind hoping for safety. Many arrive in hostile environments but stepping back home could put their lives at risk. American states must protect those in need and promote a coherent regional response.

    June 17, 2019

    Tens of thousands of older women and men from ethnic minorities across Myanmar who faced military atrocities and were forced to flee their homes are being let down by a humanitarian system that often fails to adequately address their rights and needs, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    “Fleeing my whole life”: Older people’s experience of conflict and displacement in Myanmar is the organization’s first comprehensive investigation into the specific ways older people’s rights and dignity are not respected amid armed conflict and crisis, as well in the provision of humanitarian assistance.
     
    “For decades, Myanmar’s ethnic minorities have suffered recurrent abuse at the hands of the military. Many older people racked by atrocities amid recent military operations lived through similar crimes as children or younger adults. Their experience lays bare the military’s longstanding brutality, and the need for justice,” said Matthew Wells, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.

    May 31, 2019

    AI USA Release

    The Trump administration is reportedly considering barring anyone who transits through a third country from seeking asylum at the US southern border. Such a policy would effectively block anyone other than Mexicans and Canadians from seeking asylum in the United States. In response, Charanya Krishnaswami, Advocacy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, made the following statement:

    “Seeking asylum is a human right, full stop.  This latest policy is a disgusting example of the lengths the Trump administration will go to deny people protection. Instead of taking sensible steps to fix this crisis of their own making, they choose to further their agenda of hate and fear against mothers, fathers, children, and anyone else who has been forced to flee their homes and who have no other way to seek safety. To effectively close the border to Central Americans and the vast majority of people seeking asylum not only violates human rights obligations, but is also fundamentally cruel.”

    Background:

    April 11, 2019

    The US is not safe for all refugees. The Canadian government should suspend the US/Canada border pact and allow those in need of refugee protection to access it in Canada.

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the US government, at the request of the Canadian government, is considering altering an agreement that would make it more likely that refugees seeking asylum in Canada would be returned to the United States. This week, the Canadian government also introduced a bill that includes provisions that would bar individuals from making a refugee claim in Canada if they have made a prior asylum claim in certain countries, particularly the United States.

    The request to renegotiate concerns a possible expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between the two countries, which currently applies only at official ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border. It requires individuals who arrive in Canada or the US to request protection in the first country in which they arrive. There are only limited exceptions.

    March 29, 2019

    Responding to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s letter to Congress, Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA stated:

    “Secretary Nielsen is ready to exploit the vulnerable situations of families in order to send a loud message to the world that refugees are not welcome in America.

    “The US must live up to its promise and implement humane policies that do not unnecessarily detain people seeking safety and protection.

    “The DHS’s argument that treating asylum seekers humanely fuels migration is a blatant lie meant to curb the basic rights of those fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries.”

    Amnesty International USA calls on Congress to reject Secretary Nielson’s request for more powers and demand that DHS renew its ‘Alternative to Detention’ programs.

    Background

    In October, Amnesty International launched a report on the policy of family separation and illegal pushbacks and the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers.

    March 27, 2019

    Reacting to reports that EU governments have agreed to significantly downscale the EunavforMed Operation ‘Sophia’, withdrawing ships from the central Mediterranean and only continuing the mission with air surveillance, Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International’s Migration Researcher, said:

    “This is an outrageous abdication of EU governments responsibilities.

    “Having already used every excuse in the book to banish NGO rescue boats from the Mediterranean, and having already stopped carrying out rescues several months ago, EU governments are now removing their own ships, leaving no-one to save the lives of women, men and children in peril.

    “EU governments will continue to use aerial surveillance to alert the Libyan Coast Guard when refugees and migrants are spotted at sea, so they can be taken back to Libya, despite knowing that people there are arbitrarily detained and exposed to widespread torture, rape, killings and exploitation.

    March 26, 2019

    Amnesty International joins others here today in welcoming Vanessa Rodel and her daughter to Canada as refugees resettled through private sponsorship.  It is a happy end to a search for safety that began when Ms. Rodel fled from the Philippines in 2002; and took an entirely unexpected turn in 2013 when, along with five other asylum seekers in Hong Kong, including two children, she was drawn into the effort to provide support and shelter to Edward Snowden. Mr. Snowden was, of course, being actively sought by US authorities for having publicly leaked documents showing the massive extent of US surveillance practices.

    Ms. Rodel, her daughter and the other five individuals have been at risk in Hong Kong ever since that time.  Joining with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International approached the Canadian government nearly two years ago, in May 2017, urging that private sponsorship applications that been filed for their resettlement to Canada as refugees be approved. 

    March 21, 2019

    Amnesty International welcomes the Federal Court decision on 20 March 2019 striking down the 36-month Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) bar for refugee claimants from Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) on constitutional grounds. The court found that the bar violated Section 15 of the Charter, the right to equality and non-discrimination.

    DCO claimants are those whose country of origin is designated by the Minister as a country that is less likely to produce refugees. There are currently 42 countries designated as a DCO, including Mexico, which continues to face an unrelenting human rights crisis in such areas as violence against women, disappearances and torture, and Hungary, where there are well-documented cases, including by Amnesty, of persecution of Roma people.

    March 13, 2019

    European governments are complicit in the systematic, unlawful and frequently violent pushbacks and collective expulsions of thousands of asylum seekers to squalid and unsafe refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said Amnesty International in a report published today

    Pushed to the edge: Violence and abuse against refugees and migrants along Balkan Route details how, by prioritizing border control over compliance with international law, European governments are not just turning a blind eye to vicious assaults by the Croatian police, but also funding their activities. In so doing, they are fueling a growing humanitarian crisis on the edge of the European Union.

    “To understand where European government’s priorities lie, one only needs to follow the money. Their financial contribution towards humanitarian assistance is dwarfed by the funds they provide for border security which includes equipping Croatian border police and even paying their salaries,” said Massimo Moratti, Director of Research for Amnesty International’s Europe Office.

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