What should the federal govt be doing about the asylum seeker border crossing problem at the Canada-USA border?
Imagine trudging through this, worse still, at 4 in the morning. Bitter cold, dark, and you without proper winter clothing. Now do this for more than 20 hours. That is reality for many of the refugees leaving the US, fearful that they will be caught by the net of Trump’s nationalistic ‘protect America/deport illegal immigrants’ policy.
[Topic suggested by Helene B.]
This is not a debate of the validity of Trump’s policy. Nor it is a argument that we are responsible for fellow humans, nor that there may be a violation of human rights here. No, this is simply a statement that there are many refugees crossing the Manitoba border fearful of their fate if they remain in the USA.
The border between Manitoba and North Dakota/Minnesota is long, open country, without barriers and just two border checkpoints, Hwy 29 into North Dakota and Hwy 75 into Minnesota but between these border crossings there are no barriers, no barbed wire, no walls. There is a railway line that traces the border and is an effective demarcation between the two countries.
In the summer, as you drive early in the morning you may cross the border before it is manned. One moment USA, the next, speed limit displayed with metric values, distances marked in kilometres. Quaint and even welcoming if you are a legal border crosser in a car in the summer.
But the border crossers at this time of the year are different. They are escapees from countries like Somalia, Ghana, Syria, Iraq, and other middle eastern and African countries suffering massive upheaval and/or unbearable conditions of famine and drought. People wanting to escape war, revolution and violence are leaving by the thousands. so too people starving. Also, polarized groups like homosexuals are escaping persecution and punishment in countries which ignore human rights regulations or fair treatment laws for their people. These people are going wherever they can, hoping to find some kind of refuge, safety and security for themselves and their families. Yes, families for often children, even infants accompany their parents in the escape.
Some refugees succeed in reaching the US where today, they fear another form of oppression: capture and deportation to the country from which they escaped. To avoid being caught, they trudge north to Canada in hopes of receiving better, more humane treatment. Their first surprise comes at the cold hands of Canada’s winter. Yet, they continue their trek reaching Emerson either by RCMP transport as they are caught or by being driven to the town by locals recognizing that these people need help.
And that is the question: Emerson is a small town, population about 700 people. No huge community centre, no gigantic city hall, in short, no real facilities for giving refuge to these asylum seekers. So the people who ask to make refugee claims are taken to the Canada Border Services Agency port at Emerson.
An increasing number of refugee claimants, mostly from African countries such as Somalia and Ghana, have been risking freezing temperatures and walking through farmers fields to get over the border and into Emerson in the last few months.
Asylum seekers who cross the border illegally are generally doing so to circumvent the Safe Third Country Agreement whereby claimants can request refugee protection from the first safe country they have reached. The premise is that Canada and the United States are generally safe countries for refugees. This means Canadian officials typically won’t admit refugees who have already claimed asylum in the United States. Those who cross illegally can make their claims once they are in Canada.
With warmer weather, this flow of refugees will only increase unless the US policies change. The asylum seekers knock on homes in the countryside, hoping for help. The RCMP is urging rural families to not take the asylum seekers in but to phone the RCMP who then take them to detention centres for further processing. Emerson is too small to deal with the ever increasing numbers of asylum seekers who now are transported to Winnipeg.
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, must deal with the issue and at this time he is declaring that he will bring up the issue of this border crossing problem when he meets with his American counterparts early in March.
What do you think the Canadian government should be doing in regards to these people? Does the federal government have responsibilities to assist towns and cities dealing with the problems directly?