Since MIREMS’ latest blog on multicultural media’s coverage of recent increases in irregular border crossing, the issue—specifically the Safe Third Country Agreement—continues to get media coverage across the country.
The Safe Third Country Agreement establishes that asylum seekers who arrive at formal US-Canada border crossings are turned back and told to apply for asylum in the first country they arrived to.
In the past 12 months, Canada has seen an influx of this kind of migrant, fuelled by uncertainty surrounding immigration programs in the US like TPS and DACA under the Trump Administration. These announcements are in part responsible for the record-breaking number of migrants taking unofficial routes into Canada—their only option if they’ve already applied for asylum once already—thanks to STCA.
Amidst coverage about the rise of border crossings, Anna Mehler Paperny reported for Reuters in April that Canada has been working to change the Safe Third Country Agreement in a way that allows them to “turn back thousands of asylum seekers walking across the border” but that it was the US who wasn’t cooperating.
The Canadian officials Paperny spoke with said they want the STCA to apply to the entire border between Canada and the US, not just the 117 official border crossings.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Canada has not yet started formal talks with the US on amending the agreement, though US officials are reported to be reviewing the agreement.
The issue of asylum-seeking migrants highlights a point of contention among immigrant communities. On one hand, they are sympathetic towards those fleeing their home country in hopes of a better life. On the other hand, they are hesitant to encourage the notion that there’s an “easy way” to join life in Canada. Some border crossers are said to be “skipping the line,” others “have no other choice."
Multicultural and immigrant media published various responses to these reports. Spanish sources were more sympathetic, noting that some people in the US are under new pressures, and “Canada is the only escape route they see” Voces Latinas CHHA AM 1610, a Spanish radio show said. Adding: “However, it is also fair for Canada to put limits on the numbers of people it accepts, not to reject those who really need asylum, but to be able to integrate those who come.”
An opinion article published in Toronto’s Sri Lankan Ceylon Express said the Liberal government’s allocation of funds to deal with illegal immigration is “reassuring”, and will “enable the swift processing of asylum claims and the deportation of those who do not qualify for refugee status in Canada.” Adding that “Cracking down on these illegal border crossers at the border itself will not go along with PM Trudeau's philosophy of openness.” The Chinese online daily BCbay.com quoted Trudeau saying “we are going to remain compassionate while ensuring our laws are enforced.”
The weekly newspaper Hindi Abroad in Toronto printed a story headlined “Prime minister is trying to send back the refugees,” and the Punjabi daily source Hamdard Daily’s headline read “Canadian government to tighten noose over illegal entry into Canada.” Toronto’s Russian Express called the Conservative’s request for “immediate measures to limit illegal migration” a “timely” one. And talk-show in Edmonton, Desh Punjab Radio had a caller who mentioned Conservative MP Maxime Bernier “who wants Canada to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement and send those who cross illegally back to the United States.”
Many sources quoted prominent immigration lawyer Stéphane Handfield who recommended amending the agreement. Which would “ease the pressure on Quebec which has had the vast majority of asylum claims in the last two years,” (Atin Ito, Filipino, 01/05/2018).
Jean-François Lisée, the leader of Parti Québécois, Quebec’s opposition party, suggested building a fence with signs near the new Quebec-New York border crossing. Vancouver’s Van People reported Lisée said: “that the signs are not meant to expel and exclude; it's meant to send the message that ‘this is the wrong road’."
The issue is sure to stay on the forefront of immigration news, as the weather continues to warm, and talks about renegotiating the Safe Third Country Agreement become more official.
MIREMS continues to pay close attention to these issues, and help make opinions and voices normally hidden behind language barriers more accessible to decision makers.