Oxfam condemns President Trump’s discriminatory Executive Order on refugees and urges Canadian action

February 3, 2017

Oxfam Canada is deeply concerned about President Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and the impact it could have on refugees and immigrants worldwide. The Executive Order has indefinitely suspended the US refugee program for Syrian resettlement, put a temporary hold on all refugee admissions, and put in place a travel ban on citizens from 7 Muslim majority countries: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. 

This Order is a violation of the human rights of refugees and is blatantly discriminatory towards Muslims. Moreover, it is unlikely to make Americans safer. The provisions that deny admission to visitors and refugees to the US on the basis of religious tests are particularly egregious and an affront to the freedoms held dear by both Canadians and Americans alike. Islam is practiced by nearly a quarter of the world’s population, including by millions of Americans and more than 1 million Canadians. Those who have immigrated to or sought asylum in North America have enriched our countries economically, socially, and culturally.

Canada must act immediately to condemn the Executive Order, distance its refugee policy from that of the USA and ensure measures are taken to increase support to the world’s most vulnerable populations, who have already suffered enough devastating wars and immeasurable losses. 

First, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen must condemn the injustice of the Executive Orders that deny safe refuge for thousands of people who need urgent help.

Second, Canada must rescind the designation of the United States as a “safe third country” for the purposes of refugee determination. The “Safe Third Country Agreement” between Canada and the United States, in effect since December 2004, means that asylum seekers must make their claim in the country where they first arrive, assuming both are “safe countries”. Therefore asylum seekers who pass through the USA cannot then make a refugee claim in Canada. 

And finally, Canada must continue being a leader in welcoming refugees and must develop a long term plan for increasing resettlement efforts. The Canadian response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the largely successful resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees has indicated that Canada has the capacity to undertake successful and sustainable resettlement. The crisis in Syria is grave and ongoing, and the needs of Syrians, as well as refugees from other parts of the world, continues to be greater than at any other time in history since the Second World War. Recognizing this enormous need and the overwhelming interest and goodwill of Canadians, the government must continue being a leader in response to this global crisis by demonstrating the political will to meet the needs and uphold the rights of refugees worldwide.

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