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Canada Deems US A Safe Country For Asylum-Seekers

OTTAWA: Canadian immigration officials have determined that the United States remains a safe country for asylum seekers, despite the Trump administration’s crackdown on what it terms illegal aliens.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information law show Canada was concerned about the changes in U.S. immigration policy and conducted a review of its Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S. from January to March of 2017.

The review came after U.S. President Donald Trump issued a number of executive orders on immigration, including one aimed at beefing up border security to “end the abuse of parole and asylum provisions’’ that delay and complicate the removal of undocumented migrants to the U.S.

Canada’s analyses of these U.S. policies were redacted from the documents. However, the overall conclusion reached by Canadian officials was that the United States “continues to meet the requirements for designation as a safe third country.’’

The Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the U.S. is based on the core principle that people seeking refugee protection must file their claim in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for one of a few exceptions.

The other core tenet is that Canada considers the United States a safe country for refugees. So, if an asylum seeker comes to Canada at an official border crossing from the U.S. and tries to claim refugee protection, they will be refused entry and encouraged to make their claim in the U.S. _ the “safe country’’ from which they just came.

The requirements for designating a country as safe are threefold: each country must comply with the United Nations convention against torture and the UN convention on refugees and it must maintain a good human rights record.

Internal government documents show that in 2015, Canada moved to ensure ongoing monitoring of its designation of the United States as a safe country.

Just one month after completing one of those regular reviews in December 2016, immigration officials undertook another in the wake of Trump’s 2017 executive orders and new guidelines that were issued to U.S. border officials on how to handle asylum seekers.

As part of this review, detailed policy directive memos from then-U.S. secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly were examined. The memos, which were sent to the heads of all U.S. agencies that deal with immigration and border security, detail strict and heavy-handed enforcement measures that were to be unleashed against asylum seekers in the U.S., including automatic detention of migrants _ whom Kelly refers to as “aliens’’ and “illegal aliens’’ _ pending a final determination of whether they would be ordered for removal.

Other measures outlined in Kelly’s directive included: a surge in deployment of immigration judges and asylum officers to hasten adjudication of claims; expedited removal processes and greater scrutiny of those who claim fear of persecution if they are returned to their home countries.