Safe Third Country Agreement: A Collaboration Tool Instrumentalized to Curb Asylum Seeking from Central America

Authors: Mathilde Bourgeon*, , Andréanne Bissonnette, Université du Québec à Montréal
Topics: Migration, United States, Middle America
Keywords: Borders; STCA; asylum; migration; North America; refugee; Central American
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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After 9/11, immigration, border management and security became increasingly intertwined, triggering tough policy responses in the US. This translated, at its border with Canada, into two agreements: the Smart Border Initiative and the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). Aiming to increase a shared responsibility of asylum seekers, the STCA prevents either country from allowing a person to seek asylum within its borders if they priorly transited through or lived in the other. However, a loophole pushed asylum seekers to cross outside official ports of entry. Since Donald Trump’s arrival in office, more than 58,000 people who previously transited through the US crossed on foot into Canada seeking asylum. Originally drafted to enhance collaboration between two countries with similar security levels, the STCA has since been instrumentalized as an immigration tool to decrease asylum claims at the US-Mexico border. Following a surge in Central American asylum seekers, Trump announced, in 2019, his desire to implement a STCA with sending countries, to deport migrants - either to their country of origin or the last country they crossed, forcing migrants to apply for asylum there. Comparing the US-Canada and the US-Guatemala agreements, this paper offers an analysis of how a collaboration tool at one North American border has since been reused to curb asylum - and became a way for the US government to evade its international responsibilities. It offers an analysis of how both STCA came to be, and a comparative analysis of STCA implementation within a continental border management regime.

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