By Liam Nolan, STAND Canada Blog Writer
US President Donald Trump’s banning of travel from seven majority-Muslim countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya) and suspension of the US’s refugee intake has drawn condemnation from several countries, human rights organizations, and even the United Nations. In response to this radical change in US policy, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Canada would continue welcoming refugees. However, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has explicitly stated that Canada will not change its refugee intake target of 40,000, noting that it’s “historically high for refugees”. This means Canada only plans to hold to its current plan. While this target does represent a marginal increase from the 39,671 refugees welcomed to Canada between November 4, 2015 and January 2, 2017, civil rights groups are asking the Canadian government to step in and do more than just tweet to protect those the US will not.
Of the seven countries banned, Syrian, Iraqi, and Somali peoples are at some of the highest risk in the world for becoming victims of genocide and mass killings. A Pew Research Centre analysis reveals that refugees from these countries make up approximately 37% of the total number allowed into the US in the 2016 fiscal year. Among these peoples, Syrian and Iraqi Yazidis are at a particularly high risk of violence from ISIS, which is trying to systematically destroy them. It seems now that the US is unlikely to accept the 110,000 refugees it had previously planned.
Civil rights groups are focusing on three key points: eliminating Canada’s “Safe Third Country” agreement, increasing refugee intake targets, and allowing more sponsored refugees. These are actions that STAND Canada strongly agrees need to be taken in response to President Trump’s ban.
Canada’s “Safe Third Country” agreement specifies that refugees must make claims for protection in the first country they arrive. Currently, the US is the only country designated as such. Prior to the ban, the Canadian Council for Refugees noted that the agreement is “based on the premise that the US is safe for refugees,” but problematically, the US doesn’t always obey international law when it comes to protecting them. Under President Trump’s ban, this agreement obligates Canada to send refugees back to a country that won’t accept them. This is tantamount to returning them to the very war zones from which they are fleeing.
In addition to eliminating the “Safe Third Country” agreement, many are pushing for increases to both refugee intake targets and to the caps for sponsorship. Group of five applications, in which at least five people privately sponsor a refugee to come to Canada, are being capped at “1,000 applicants for all of Canada” in 2017. Critics have noted that this cap is particularly low and only includes applications, not accepted refugees. Group of five applications aren’t the only sponsorships being capped in Canada. Quebec has suspended its intake of private refugee sponsorship applications due to its large number of pending cases. In response to these caps, NDP Immigration Critic Jenny Kwan has urged the government to remove limits on privately sponsored refugees in the wake of Trump’s ban.
The most common argument against removing these caps, as is the case with Quebec, is that more applications would result in longer wait times. However, some immigration advocates have noted that eventually every person involved in the process will get their hearing. An increased intake still removes refugees from dangerous situations, and, even if the process is slow, it’s better than nothing. This doesn’t even address the possibility of the government allocating more resources, as it has done in the past, to speed up processing times. There’s no telling how many people that more resources might help. President Trump’s ban has thrown the lives of around 90,000 refugees, immigrants, dual citizens, and travelers into a state of uncertainty. With the conflict between the White House and the judiciary still developing, the ban’s future is unclear. However, what is clear is that Canada must start planning for the worst while hoping for the best.
See STAND Canada’s action alert on the Refugee Ban by clicking here.
Click here to read a personalized account of the lost human potential that is created by turning away refugees by STAND USA’s National Student Director Francesca Freeman.