Safe Third Country Agreement: What Is It?
The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Canada that sets out a shared responsibility for asylum seekers. This agreement requires that individuals who arrive at the border between the two countries make their refugee claim in the first country in which they arrive. In other words, if someone arrives at the Canadian border, but previously passed through the United States, they are expected to make their refugee claim in the United States, and vice versa.
The STCA was signed in 2002 as a means of managing the flow of asylum seekers between the two countries. It was designed to prevent individuals from submitting multiple refugee claims in different countries and to ensure that people do not “shop” for a more favorable refugee determination process.
However, over the years, there has been significant criticism of the STCA. Many refugee advocates argue that the agreement violates the principles of refugee protection and that the United States is not a safe country for asylum seekers. They point to the current administration’s policies, such as family separation and the Muslim travel ban, as evidence of the United States’ lack of commitment to protecting refugees.
The STCA has also faced legal challenges. In 2017, a Canadian court struck down the agreement, arguing that it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court found that the agreement forces asylum seekers to take dangerous routes to enter Canada illegally, putting them at risk of harm and inhumane treatment.
The government of Canada appealed the decision, and in 2018, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s ruling. The appeals court found that the STCA does not violate the charter, as it does not deprive asylum seekers of their right to life, liberty, and security of the person.
Despite the decision, the STCA remains controversial, and calls for its repeal continue. As of August 2021, the agreement is suspended as a result of a legal challenge in the United States.
In conclusion, the Safe Third Country Agreement is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Canada that sets out a shared responsibility for asylum seekers. While it was designed to prevent multiple refugee claims and ensure fairness, it has been criticized for violating the principles of refugee protection and potentially putting asylum seekers at risk. As the legal challenges continue, the future of the STCA remains unclear.