‘No legal justification’ to close border to asylum-seekers

  • June 23, 2020

Canada can protect both the public health and the human rights of vulnerable peoples without closing its border to refugee claimants who cross the border from the U.S. at irregular crossing points, the CBA’s Immigration Law Section says.

In its second letter addressing this issue since the government imposed the order due to COVID-19 concerns, the Section once again asked that the decision to close the border be reversed.

“There is no legal justification to close Canada’s borders to any refugee claimants,” the Section writes. “Canada can take measures to protect the public health of its population while continuing to meet its legal and humanitarian obligations to refugee claimants pursuant to its international commitments.”

It also asks the government to disclose the text of the agreement it reached with the U.S. regarding the border closure, including any commitment the U.S. might have made about asylum-seekers who are turned back to the U.S.

“American officials have previously stated that asylum-seekers would be detained and forcibly removed to their country of origin, which contravenes the right to non-refoulement,” the Section writes. “In the absence of a written agreement between the two countries that this will not happen, we remain concerned that Canada is violating its international legal obligations.”

The threat of being returned to the U.S. could create its own problems if people who manage to cross the border at an irregular point then wait in hiding for the IRCC offices to accept their claims, putting their own health and those of other individuals in Canada at risk.