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Refugee lawyers call on Canada to cut ties with U.S. on asylum seekers

Refugee lawyers helping asylum seekers who have crossed into Canada irregularly are calling on government to end its co-operation with the U.S. government and suspend the safe third country agreement.
Asylum seekers arrive at temporary housing facilities at the border crossing, May 9, 2018, in St. Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Refugee lawyers helping asylum seekers who have crossed into Canada irregularly are calling on government to end its co-operation with the U.S. government and suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen met U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in Washington on Monday and together they reaffirmed their commitment to working together on border security issues related to asylum seekers.

But the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers believes this is the opposite of what Canada should do, especially in light of recent revelations about how the U.S. deals with its illegal border crossers — steps that sometimes include separating children from parents who are taken into custody.

Maureen Silcoff, who is co-chair of the association's litigation committee and has clients who are irregular migrants, says Canada ought to distance itself from President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policies.

She says the association was dismayed to hear Hussen talk about wanting to work with the U.S. to strengthen and modernize the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Opposition immigration critic Michelle Rempel says Canadians are in the dark about what the U.S. government's position is on any potential changes to the agreement.