Last Updated on July 17, 2019
July 16, 2019 – Canada Border Services Agency officers are to be equipped with batons, pepper spray and bulletproof vests when they are working with detained migrants.
The new national policy has raised concerns that asylum seekers are being criminalized.
It follows the decision to move immigration detainees out of provincial jails and into immigration holding centres, after an outcry over people being detained without trial for several years.
All officers working in the centres are to be required to wear the defensive equipment in order to manage detainees, particularly those recently transferred from jails.
Critics say the move will create jail-like conditions in the detention centres, defeating the object of moving the detainees in the first place.
Equipment To Be Worn By CBSA Officers Working In Detention Centres
- Pepper spray
- Bulletproof vests
- Steel-Toed Boots
Even the union representing the officers is against the move, saying the introduction of the equipment could further complicate situations of conflict.
Canada detains immigrants for several reasons, including grounds of security, criminality or a record of human rights abuses. But the majority – 81 per cent in 2018 – are held because they are deemed a flight risk. These included 40 children, most of them who were with adults.
Irregular Border Crossers
Meanwhile, the monthly figure for irregular border crossers was higher for the first time in 2019 during June.
The month saw 1,567 people intercepted by the RCMP after crossing the border into Canada from the U.S. at unrecognized border points. The figure compares to 1,263 in June 2018.
In every other month of 2019, the figure has been below 2018, when a total of 19,419 people crossed the border during the whole year.
Canada’s federal government is seeking to change the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to try and stop the flow of asylum seekers who enter from the U.S. at irregular border points.
The proposed change would mean asylum seekers who had previously made a refugee claim in another country could not then make a claim in Canada.
Ottawa tabled the change in Budget Implementation Bill C-97 on Monday, April 8, 2019.
The bill seeks to amend the “Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to introduce a new ground of ineligibility for refugee protection if a claimant has previously made a claim for refugee protection in another country”.
It means that if asylum seekers who arrive in Canada have previously made a refugee claim in the U.S., they would not be eligible to seek asylum in Canada.
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The move comes following attempts by the federal government to change the Safe Third Country Agreement in place between Canada and the U.S.
The bilateral agreement means that an asylum seeker has to claim refugee status in the first ‘safe’ country at which they arrive.
It means that asylum seekers arriving in the U.S. are not allowed to cross into Canada to claim refugee status. If they try to cross into Canada from the U.S. at recognized border points, they are turned back.
However, they are allowed to claim refugee status if they have already made it to Canada, which is why more than 40,000 crossed at irregular border points in 2017 and 2018 as they try to flee Donald Trump’s U.S. immigration crackdown.
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