Section 103(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “IRPA”) states that the Government of Canada can designate countries that it determines comply with international standards relating to the treatment of refugees as safe third countries. Section 101(1)(e) further states that refugee claimaints coming to Canada from these designated safe third countries cannot have their asylum claims heard in Canada.
Regulation 159.3 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the (“IRPR”) designates the United States as being a safe third party.
The Safe Third Country Concept
Under the safe third country concept in refugee law, claims for asylum may be rejected on the basis that the claimant should have sought protection in a country other than where the claim was made. An underlying objective of this concept is to deter asylum shopping.
The Safe Third Country Agreement
The Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in the Examination of Refugee Status Claims from Nationals of Third Countries (the “Safe Third Country Agreement”) came into effect on December 29, 2004.
The Safe Third Country Agreement contains several objectives, including the orderly handling of asylum applications, ehanced burden sharing and avoiding the direct or indirect breaches of the principle of non-refoulement.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, refugee claimants arriving from the United States at a Canadian land border port of entry cannot seek protection in Canada. Instead, they are sent back to the United States, it being the first “safe country” in which they arrived.
There are exceptions to this. Canada retains responsibility for determining the refugee status of claimants arriving from the United States in the following scenarios:
- where the claimant has family members in Canada and the family member is a Canadian citizen,
Last updated on October 24th, 2020
Efrat Arbel is Assistant Professor at the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. She is an executive member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. A list of Dr. Arbel’s recent publications can be found here.
During this podcast we talk about three areas that Dr. Arbel has recently focused her research on. These include the distinction between physical borders and legal borders in the refugee context, how interdiction works, and the Safe Third Country Agreement.
The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States requires that persons seeking refugee protection must make a claim in the first country they arrive in unless they qualify for an exception to the Agreement. In other words, an asylum seeker who wishes to seek refugee status in Canada will typically be denied the ability to do so if they attempt to enter Canada by land from the United States.
This episode was recorded before President Trump’s recent Executive Order imposed a moratorium on asylum claims in the United States. President Trump’s decision has only intensified and magnified many of the issues that Dr. Arbel discusses in this podcast.
1:43 – Dr. Arbel explains different concepts of what a country’s border is, and the distinction between the physical border and the legal border.
4:10 – We discuss the Canada Border Services Agency’s multiple border strategy, the role of Canada Border Services Agency liaison officers, and interdiction.
16:15 – We briefly summarize Canada’s new Electronic Travel Authorisation.
19:00 – Dr.Read more ›