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Refugees and Migrants

    April 02, 2020

    April 2, 2020 – In the lead up to Refugee Rights Day, refugee, human rights, legal and civil liberties organizations are renewing their call for the Government of Canada to reopen the Canada-US border to refugee claims. Effective March 21, 2020, an Order-In-Council prohibits refugee claimants arriving from the United States to enter Canada for the purposes of refugee protection.

    The Canadian Council for Refugees, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Amnesty International, and BC Civil Liberties Association jointly call on the government to reconsider its closure of the Canada-US border to refugees. This closure violates international law. With Refugee Rights Day being marked across Canada on April 4, these organizations are calling attention to the grave threat to refugee rights with the prohibition on refugee arrivals at the land border.

    March 30, 2020

    Toronto, March 30, 2020 — Canada’s decision to shut the border to refugee claimants puts those individuals in danger, is out of step with public health measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, and runs counter to our international legal obligations. From moral, public health and legal perspectives, closing the border to refugee claimants is wrong.

    On March 19, 2020, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced new border entry restrictions that preserved the right to seek refugee protection while also protecting public health through non-discriminatory screening and self-isolation measures. Then, on March 20, the government abandoned this sensible and humane approach, and announced a new decision made with the US government to shut the border almost entirely to people seeking refugee protection in Canada when entering from the US.

    March 20, 2020

    Today’s news that the Canadian government will turn back refugee claimants attempting to cross the Canada-U.S. border is a shameful breach of international law that risks further endangering lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Amnesty International. 

    “This is beyond disappointing and disgraceful,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Today’s news only serves to further inflame misconceptions and racism rather than offering reassurance and leadership. When it comes to refugees, Canada is stepping back at a time when we need to step forward.” 

    February 28, 2020

    Following reports that Turkey is allowing asylum-seekers to depart its territory and attempt to enter the European Union particularly Greece and Bulgaria, Amnesty International’s Deputy Research Director, Massimo Moratti, said: 

    “What we are seeing now at Turkey’s land and sea borders with the EU is that people seeking asylum are once again being used as bargaining chips in a deadly political game, a predictable consequence of the EU-Turkey deal. 

    “EU member states need to do far more to share responsibility for refugees arriving in Turkey, both through financial support and ensuring safe pathways to Europe.

    February 04, 2020

    Peru is betraying its tradition of solidarity with Venezuelans seeking protection and is now deliberately rejecting people at the border, Amnesty International revealed today in a new report, In search of safety: Peru turns its back on people fleeing Venezuela.

    Venezuelan asylum-seekers trying to enter via Peru’s border with Ecuador are being turned away, despite appearing to fulfil all the criteria for international protection. Peru is denying entry even to Venezuelans in evidently vulnerable situations, including older people and unaccompanied children.

    “In recent years, Peru has been an example of solidarity and safe refuge. Instead of resorting to restrictive policies, it should continue to demonstrate leadership and welcome Venezuelans, in line with its domestic and international obligations to guarantee the protection of people fleeing hunger and violence in Venezuela,” said Marina Navarro, executive director of Amnesty International Peru.

    January 31, 2020

    Spokespeople are available in New York and Washington, D.C.

    Responding to reports that the Trump administration is expanding what has become known as the Muslim ban, which President Trump signed during his first week in office, Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA’s executive director said:

    “This chaos has become the new normal. The policies this administration has enacted towards people seeking safety have been cruel, inhumane, bigoted. Once again, we reject these policies and stand in support of all people this administration seeks to exclude because of their identity. Reviving this ban, and the anti-Muslim sentiment in which it originated, is a violation of the values of human rights and human dignity, and it must be overturned.”

    “The Trump administration’s efforts to expand the ban are offensive and actually harmful to our national security. Our research has demonstrated how every version of this ban has shown itself to be deadly, dangerous, and disastrous. This policy is rooted in hate, white supremacy, and racism. 

    January 30, 2020

    Last week, in the lead up to the International Day of Education, Amnesty International once again pressed the government of Bangladesh and the international community to address the continuing failure to provide education to Rohingya refugee children, and the lack of educational opportunities for many children in host communities near the refugee camps in Bangladesh.

    What a difference a week makes! On Tuesday, the Bangladeshi government announced it will open up the prospect of going to school for hundreds of thousands of refugee children who have been denied that right for years.

    It is tremendous news, and Canada is well-placed to work with Bangladesh to ensure that vital promise becomes reality.

    The International Day of Education draws attention to the vital role that education plays in advancing peace and development in our world. It is grounded in recognition that access to education is an important human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and numerous other international treaties adopted over the decades. Recognition as well, though, that around the world it is a right far too frequently violated and ignored.

    January 28, 2020

    The Bangladesh government has announced it will offer schooling and skills training opportunities to Rohingya refugee children, two and a half years after they were forced to flee crimes against humanity in Myanmar.

    Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have been campaigning for the nearly half a million Rohingya children in Bangladesh’s refugee camps to be allowed to enjoy their right to quality education, warning of the costs of a ‘lost generation’.

    “This is an important and very positive commitment by the Bangladeshi government, allowing children to access schooling and chase their dreams for the future. They have lost two academic years already and cannot afford to lose any more time outside a classroom,” said Saad Hammadi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.

    January 21, 2020

    In a ground-breaking asylum case, a UN human rights body has ruled that governments must take into account the human rights violations caused by the climate crisis when considering deportation of asylum seekers, said Amnesty International today. 

    Ioane Teitiota, a man from the Pacific nation of Kiribati, brought a case against the government of New Zealand at the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) in February 2016 after authorities denied his claim of asylum as a ‘climate refugee.’ He was deported from New Zealand to Kiribati in September 2015. The HRC delivered its decision on the case earlier this month. 

    “The decision sets a global precedent,” said Kate Schuetze, Pacific Researcher at Amnesty International. “It says a state will be in breach of its human rights obligations if it returns someone to a country where – due to the climate crisis – their life is at risk, or in danger of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment triggered.”    

    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 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.

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