An Iraqi man who illegally crossed the US border into Abbotsford last week turned himself in to police in an apparent bid to gain refugee status in Canada.
The 31-year-old approached a local man on the 700-block of Lefeuvre Road around 6 p.m. on Friday, July 21. He identified himself as a refugee and asked the local worker to call police, who responded and detained the man, Const. Ian MacDonald said.
The APD contacted the Canada Border Services Agency, who picked the man up from APD jail that Friday evening and took him into their custody, according to MacDonald.
A CBSA spokesperson said she could not share any information on the man’s current whereabouts or any asylum claim he may have.
The Safe Third Country Agreement between the US and Canada prevents anyone who has made a refugee claim in one country from making a claim in another. The agreement is meant to ease pressure on the two countries’ immigration systems, as both the US and Canada are considered safe destinations for migrants.
But since the election of President Donald Trump in the US, many asylum seekers in that country have expressed fear of growing xenophobia and immigration crackdowns and have fled north.
A loophole in the agreement allows for those who have previously made a claim in the US to make one in Canada, if they cross into the country illegally and then make their pressence known to Canadian officials.
Critics in Canada have said this is unfair to refugees in other countries, many of whom wait years, in refugee camps and elsewhere, for applications to be accepted to move to Canada.
But the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website states this is not entirely true:
“As asylum claimants and resettled refugees come to Canada through different immigration streams, those who are crossing the border illegally and claiming asylum in Canada are not queue jumpers, and are not taking the place of refugees who are coming to Canada from abroad for resettlement,” the IRCC site states.
Protocol states that once the Iraqi man was in CBSA custody, an immigration officer should have conducted an immigration examination, which includes deciding whether or not the man should be detained further. The Iraqi man should have also undergone a health check and security screening – including fingerprinting – to determine if they are a threat to Canada.
If he is determined to be eligible for a refugee claim, he will most likely be released, awaiting a hearing in front of the Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
If the claim is deemed ineligible, a “removal order” will be issued and the Iraqi man will be released on a promise to appear for deportation proceedings. A process initiated by CBSA and conducted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada would then set out to determine if he would be safe if he were deported back to Iraq.
While an individual eligible to go before the board awaits a hearing, they may have access to social assistance, education, health services, emergency housing and legal aid.
And once a scheduled hearing takes place, the quasi-juidicial IRB will set out to determine if a claimant meets to UN definition of a refugee.
“The UN defines Convention refugees as people who have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group,” the IRCC website states. “Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a person in need of protection is a person in Canada who would be subjected personally to a danger of torture, a risk to their life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if they were returned to their home country.”