Seeking Refuge in Canada: What You Need to Know

By cause of the crunch of refugee claims at Canada’s borders this past year, on September 18, 2017, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, held a round table discussion with immigrant advocacy groups in New York City, with purpose of clarifying misinformation and make aware more appropriate understanding of Canada’s refugee system and the risks of irregular border crossings.

While Canadians pride themselves on one of the most compassionate and obliging refugee programs in the world, it remains a program eligible only to candidates who face the most narrow and extraordinary cases of persecution. Canada also has strict restrictions on refugee claims made at land border ports-of-entry due to the United States being considered a “safe third country.”

At the round table Minister Hussen clarified a number of important points:

1.      Temporary Protected Status granted to asylum seekers in the United States does not entitle people to the same status in Canada.

2.      Further to that, Canada has no special program to grant refugee status to individuals in the United States granted Temporary Protected Status.

3.      Claiming refugee status is not a free ticket into Canada. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, refugee claimants are required to request protection in the United States first if they land there before attempting to enter Canada at a land port-of-entry. Canada Border Services Agents will refuse entry to claimants who do not meet the few exceptions.

4.      Anyone who crosses the U.S. border into Canada outside of a proper port-of-entry, are in violation the law and could face risk of detention and removal.*

The exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement regard the importance of family unification, the best interests of children and public interest issues, such as people facing the death penalty. Even if a claimant qualifies for one of these exceptions, they will still be required to meet all other legislative eligibility criteria at a tribunal hearing.

Before considering refugee protection in Canada from the United States, candidates are encouraged to seek expert counsel prior to making rash and expensive decisions, that could have serious and permanent consequences.

Kieran Verboven practices in the immigration group and is a member in good standing with the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). Kieran received his Bachelor of Arts from McGill University, and has been an immigration practitioner since 2007.

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