Canada could indefinitely suspend deportations to Haiti and other countries devastated by Hurricane Irma, according to federal provisions that halt removals to nations deemed too dangerous because of conflict or disaster.
Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said the Canada Border Services Agency will not deport anyone who has had their refugee claim rejected, or is deemed inadmissible to Canada, to a country coping with a hurricane.
After the storm has passed, an evaluation will be carried out on the ground to determine its impact.
If the country is deemed safe, removals could continue. But widespread devastation could lead to a suspension of deportations, as happened after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Those postponements could last for months or even years.
"What happens really depends on the circumstance," Bardsley said.
Canada has seen a wave of asylum seekers, including Haitian citizens, crossing over from the U.S. in recent months.
Hundreds have been streaming across the border at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que. Many of them have been living in the U.S. under temporary protection status granted after the 2010 earthquake.
That is set to expire in January, because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now considers Haiti a safe country.
Haiti braces for flooding, mudslides
The impoverished island nation of nearly 11 million people, with weak infrastructure and water systems, is still reeling from two major natural disasters in the last decade as it now braces for high winds, rain, flooding and mudslides from Hurricane Irma.
World Vision, which has aid workers on the ground in Haiti and neighbouring Dominican Republic, says the potential damage to water and sanitation also poses a threat of a cholera outbreak.
Public Safety did not have figures readily available on the number of people from Haiti or other countries affected by the hurricanes in the region who are the subject of removal orders.
There are two protocols that could postpone a deportation:
- Administrative deferral of removals (ADR): These are meant be a temporary measure when immediate action is required to defer removals during a humanitarian crisis. Once the situation stabilizes, the ADR is lifted and the CBSA resumes removals. An ADR is now in place for certain regions in Somalia, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Burundi.
- Temporary suspension of removals (TSR): This program interrupts removals to a country or place when conditions pose a risk to the entire civilian population, such as armed conflict or an environmental disaster. Canada has a TSR in place for Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.
People who are inadmissible to Canada based on criminal background, human rights violations, organized crime, or security can still be removed even when there is an administrative deferral or suspension in place.
An administrative deferral is usually put in place for a relatively short period, compared to a suspension.
Temporary refuge granted in 2010
Canada suspended removals after the 2010 Haitian earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. The program granting Haitian nationals temporary refuge expired Aug. 4, 2016.
That meant the 3,200 Haitians who were in Canada without status had to apply for residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds in order to stay.
"If somebody is in Canada for a long time there's a recognition that their ties get quite strong here and their ties with their home country get proportionately weaker," Bardsley said.