Date: August 6, 2020
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: IEB/CBSA
- The Government of Canada has an agreement with the U.S. regarding the direct back of any foreign national seeking to enter the country between ports of entry during this pandemic.
- A revised Order in Council (OIC) which came into effect on July 20, 2020, stipulates that individuals who are travelling to Canada for the purpose of making a claim for refugee protection may be directed back to the U.S. during this public health crisis.
- The OIC maintains various exemptions for certain asylum claimants including: persons seeking to enter Canada at a land port of entry to claim asylum and who meet an exemption in the Safe Third Country Agreement,including citizens of the U.S.; unaccompanied minors; and stateless habitual residents of the U.S. All other persons will be directed back to the U.S. until the public health order is lifted.
- Every person seeking to enter Canada is being screened for COVID-19 and any other health issues regardless of how they enter Canada (i.e. at ports of entry or between ports of entry).
- The CBSA continues to screen asylum claimants for potential signs of illness as per standard process.
- If an individual is symptomatic, they are referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for further examination.
- If an individual is asymptomatic and requires accommodations for the 14 day isolation or quarantine period, they will be transferred to the care of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada or PHAC.
If pressed on the recent Federal Court Decision on the Safe Third Country Agreement:
- A decision was recently made by the Federal Court which found that the Safe Third Country Agreement is in breach of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- This outcome will likely have an impact on the Agency’s operations. As the decision was just rendered, we cannot say with certainty the exact impact it has on the Agency.
- The CBSA will work with its IRCC counterparts as it assesses the impact of the Federal Court’s decision.
Starting in 2017, Canada began to experience an increase in the movement of asylum seekers crossing in between the ports of entry (POE) in the Quebec Region, more precisely at Roxham Road. In 2018 and 2019, daily arrival average between POE remained consistent at 50 asylum seekers.
As per normal processes, once asylum seekers are processed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), they are transported by bus to temporary shelters in Montreal (YMCA Montréal) where they remain for an average of 45 days until they are able to find long-term housing. These services are offered by the Government of Quebec and federal funding has been provided to the province under the Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP).
Since the appearance of COVID-19, procedures have been implemented by the CBSA, including additional screening questions and the distribution of a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) COVID-19 awareness handout.
The new Order in Council (OIC) entitled “Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States)”, commonly referred to as OIC 19, came into force on July 20, 2020 with an expiry date of August 21, 2020. This order replaces a previous order (OIC 16).
The OIC supports Canada’s continued focus on reducing the introduction and further spread of COVID-19 by decreasing the risk of importing cases from outside the country. In consideration of Canada’s international obligations with respect to non-refoulement, the OIC also supports the continued application of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) and thereby allows the resumption of asylum claim processing at designated land ports of entry in accordance with applicable provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This means that those that meet one of narrow exceptions will be permitted to enter and make an application for refugee protection. The OIC does not lift the prohibition on entry for the purpose of making a refugee claim at any other location, including airports, marine ports, and between official ports of entry. Moreover, the OIC contains a new authority whereby the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness or the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, may exempt an individual from the prohibition on entry for the purpose of making an asylum claim where it is determined to be in the national or public interest “while recognizing the paramount public health interests of Canada and Canadians.”
Foreign nationals, including refugee claimants, are issued direct-backs by an officer that are valid for the duration of the period outlined in the emergency order or regulation. Once the emergency order is lifted, all foreign nationals who initiated a refugee claim and were directed back will be permitted to return to Canada for the continuation of their processing.
The CBSA has established an external website to provide information to any asylum seeker who has been directed back to the U.S.
Approved by: Scott Harris, Vice President, Intelligence and Enforcement Branch, 613-957-8328
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