Canada suddenly wants to change a bilateral agreement with the U.S. to allow it to turn back thousands of mainly Muslim and some Haitian asylum seekers walking across the border into Canada, but the U.S. is not cooperating, according to a Canadian official.
Reuters Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, or STCA, asylum seekers who arrive at a formal Canada-U.S. border crossing going in either direction are turned back and told to apply for asylum in the first country they arrived in. Canada wants the agreement rewritten to apply to the entire border.
More than 26,000 people have illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border to file refugee claims in the past 15 months, walking over ditches and on empty roads along the world’s longest undefended border. Many have told Reuters they might have stayed in the United States were it not for President Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies.
Canadian officials first discussed changing the pact with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials last September, shortly after more than 5,700 asylum seekers walked into Canada in August.
For now, another official said, Canada would keep doing what it is doing: Managing the influx of refugee claimants in a strained system, while seeking to dissuade would-be crossers through outreach efforts.
“We’d like to be able to get them to agree that we can, if somebody comes across, we just send them back,” the official told Reuters on Friday, adding Canada had raised the issue “at least a dozen” times since. “I wouldn’t say they’ve been objecting or saying: ‘No, we won’t do it,’ but it’s been not responding rapidly.”
The Department of Homeland Security is reviewing Canada’s proposal and has not yet made a decision, a spokeswoman said.