What Is a Safe Third Country Agreement
The CCR continues to urge the Canadian government to withdraw from the Safe Third Country Agreement. The CCR participated in a legal challenge to the classification of the United States as a safe third country shortly after it came into force. The Federal Court ruled that the United States is not a safe third country, but the decision was overturned on appeal for technical reasons (see here for more information). Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, which has been in force since December 2004, Canada and the United States each declare the other country safe for refugees and close the door to most asylum seekers at the Canada-U.S. border. In November 2020, the Trump administration issued provisional final regulations to implement the agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Since then, the United States has deported Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers to Guatemala and returned at least 1,000 adults and children to the country. Trump has been pushing for secure deals with third countries in recent months in the face of increased migration from Central America to the United States. The number of migrants apprehended at the U.S. southern border surpassed 144,000 in May 2019, the highest monthly total since 2006.
The United States has another such agreement, a 2002 agreement with Canada. In the past, two countries have negotiated agreements on “safe third countries” to better manage the flow of refugee and asylum claims at their borders. This agreement is signed on the assumption that both countries can offer asylum to people in need. This is not the case in the Trump administration`s agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Since the STCA came into force in 2004, interest groups in Canada have called for its abolition, arguing that the United States poses a greater risk of rejection than Canada due to the United States` strict immigration and detention policies. The principle of non-refoulement – the non-return of refugees to a country or territory where they may be threatened for their life or freedom – is at the heart of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. Asylum seekers are required to assert their claims in the country where they first enter and which is a party to the Safe Third Country Agreement. If this is not the case, the other countries in the agreement can reject their applications and send them back to that country. The agreements would effectively make it impossible for migrants to seek safety at the U.S.
southern border – and would further endanger the lives of thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala) and other countries. Mexico. Mexico has refused to sign an agreement on safe third countries, with officials arguing that they have already helped reduce migration to the United States. Since January, the Trump administration has sent many asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for their cases to be processed. In an agreement signed in June and signed under customs pressure, Mexico agreed to take in more asylum seekers and strengthen enforcement of its southern border with Guatemala. Compliance with these obligations means that when partnering with countries under a “responsibility-sharing agreement”, both partners must fully assess whether a person may be at risk of persecution or torture before being returned to their country of origin. The U.S. refugee determination system has shortcomings in this regard, which violate not only international law, but also, in the opinion of the Federal Court, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Meanwhile, Trump administration officials hope this is just the beginning: they are also seeking deals with Brazil, El Salvador and Honduras.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) requires the ongoing review of all countries designated as safe third countries. The objective of the review process is to ensure that the conditions that led to classification as a safe third country continue to be met. Under the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980, these agreements are not considered contracts, so they can be entered into without congressional approval. Asylum seekers can only be deported to countries where their lives are not threatened and where they have full access to a fair asylum procedure. Agreements on safe third countries are not explicitly mentioned in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or in the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Instead, their legality derives from Article 31 of the 1951 Convention, which states that a refugee should not be punished for illegal entry into a country if he comes directly from a country where he has been threatened. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) itself has warned against overly broad an interpretation of safe third country agreements, although it acknowledges that they may be acceptable in certain circumstances.
 Such ambiguities have led some lawyers in Canada to question the legality of the Canada-United States Agreement on the Safety of Third Countries.  If all of these agreements are implemented as planned, tens of thousands of asylum seekers traveling from the Northern Triangle to the United States will be arrested at the southern border of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador or Mexico. And people migrating from outside the Northern Triangle are essentially required to seek asylum from the south of the Honduras-Nicaragua border. Julie Taub, an immigration and refugee lawyer, says the Canada Border Services Agency has lost its capacity since the agreement was launched in late 2004 and would be “overwhelmed” if the agreement were repealed.  Due to COVID-19, the United States has temporarily suspended the deportation of non-Guatemalan asylum seekers to Guatemala as part of its “Safe Third Country Agreement” with the country. The United States continues to regularly conduct deportation flights to Guatemala. Ahmed Hussen, speaking as Canada`s minister at IRCC, said the terms of the Safe Third Country Agreement remained respected. The governing Liberal Party of Canada has announced no plan or intention to suspend the agreement.  The Trump administration is methodically dismantling the U.S. asylum system to curb immigration to the United States. One of the most devastating changes the government has introduced is the negotiation of agreements with Central American countries, according to which asylum seekers traveling through a country must first seek protection there. Under the agreement, asylum seekers are required to apply for refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they are eligible for an exemption from the agreement.
A safe third country is a country where a person travelling through that country could have applied for refugee protection. In Canada, subsection 102(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act outlines the criteria for designating a state as a safe third country. An agreement with El Salvador: The Salvadoran government has agreed to accept asylum seekers returned from the United States. Under the agreement, any asylum seeker who is not a citizen of El Salvador could be returned to El Salvador and forced to apply for asylum there. The agreement does not apply to the United States. Citizens or ordinary residents of the United States who are not citizens of any country (“Stateless”). The United States and other countries that are parties to these agreements may be in violation of legal obligations under domestic and international law. These include the U.S.
Refugee Act of 1980 and the United Nations Refugee Convention, which establishes the principle that refugees should not be forcibly returned to countries where they may be persecuted. .