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Canadian Council of Churches Says U.S. Not Safe for Refugees

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The Christian Reformed Church, through its membership in the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), is challenging the designation of the United States as a safe country for refugees. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, in place since 2004, refugees at a Canada-U.S. border post seeking to make a refugee claim in Canada are denied access to the Canadian refugee system and immediately returned to the United States.

The CCC, along with two other organizations, launched a legal challenge on July 5, 2017, asking the Canadian Federal Court to revoke the agreement.

“In the course of our work with parliamentarians over the last few months we’ve noticed that the Safe Third Country Agreement is a matter of controversy,” said Mike Hogeterp, director of the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue. “Because of this, we’ve asked [Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen] and MPs for a thorough review of [the agreement]. The legal challenge is an opportunity to carefully scrutinize the safety concerns expressed by migrants outside of the fray of partisan politics.”

The CCC is joined in the case by the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International. “The U.S. was never safe for all refugees, and is now even less safe,” said Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “It is wrong, morally and legally, to send claimants back to the U.S., knowing as we do that they may face serious violations of their basic rights.”

“Our organizations have pressed repeatedly, expecting that Canada would move to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement as regard for the rights of refugees has rapidly plummeted under the Trump Administration,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “To our astonishment and disappointment, however, the Canadian government continues to maintain that the U.S. asylum system qualifies as safe. We are left with no choice but to turn to the courts to protect refugee rights.”

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