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2004-20

SAFE THIRD COUNTRY AGREEMENT COMES INTO FORCE TODAY

OTTAWA, December 29, 2004 — Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro today announced the coming into force of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States.

“I am pleased that Canada and the United States are working together to implement this agreement that will further our collaboration on refugee protection at the land border,” said Minister Sgro. “This agreement is in full compliance with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) principles and guidelines where the first country of asylum is the country where the claim will be heard. The UNHCR will be a full partner in the implementation and the monitoring of the agreement.”

As of today, certain asylum seekers in Canada and the United States will be required to make their claim in the country where they were last present. This means that asylum seekers arriving in Canada at the land border from the United States will not be eligible to have their refugee claim determined in Canada, unless they fall within an exception as outlined in the amended regulations governing the agreement. Similarly, the agreement allows the United States to return to Canada asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States from Canada.

The agreement applies only to refugee claims made at a land border port of entry, and not refugee claims made at airports, marine ports or inland offices. Therefore, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has a primary role in implementing it as ports of entry are staffed by CBSA officers.

With this agreement, both Canada and the United States are meeting their international obligations related to refugee protection. The agreement is part of the 32-point action plan associated with the Smart Border Declaration signed by Canada and the United States.

The objective of the Safe Third Country Agreement is to create an effective measure of control, necessary to better manage access to Canada’s refugee determination system. In fact, the agreement will enhance the orderly handling of refugee claims and strengthen public confidence in the integrity of the asylum systems of both countries.

Canada and the United States signed the Smart Border Declaration in December 2001 to ensure the secure and efficient movement of goods and people across our shared border. The associated 32-point action plan covers a range of initiatives, and departments in both countries will work together to achieve their mutual objectives.

The agreement can be viewed on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Web site (www.cic.gc.ca). The amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations were published in the Canada Gazette on November 3, 2004, and come into effect today. These amendments, which implement the agreement and set out the exceptions, can be viewed in Part II of the Canada Gazette (http://canadagazette.gc.ca).

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For more information (media only):

Sherri Haigh
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister
(613) 954-1064

Maria Iadinardi
Media Relations
Communications Branch
(613) 952-0740