Watchful eyes 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, known for helping refugees worldwide since its formation by the United Nations General Assembly in 1950, is about to bring Canada-U.S. border points such as the Ambassador Bridge into the world spotlight.

Commission officials in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, have been invited by the United States and Canada to help monitor the Safe Third Country Agreement signed by both governments last December.

The deal was bad news for asylum seekers because Canada’s policies are more lenient than ours.

The result is that a lot of people who entered this country intending to then head north are now screwed.

The commission wants to make sure that wherever these folks land, they at least get a fair hearing.

It’s the first time the United Nations has been part of such a process in the United States, according to Andrew Painter, a senior protection officer with the commission in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a growth in our protection of refugees,” says Painter, whose regional office covers the United States and the Caribbean.

Commission officials will also be monitoring border crossings in Buffalo and Champlain, N.Y. Painter says that, among other things, the commission will be checking to ensure asylum claims are actually being reviewed. It will also keep an eye on nongovernmental organizations and detention facilities.

Detroit’s Freedom House, which offers asylum seekers in Detroit food, shelter and legal assistance, is the main non-governmental organization assisting commission officials locally, says legal director David Koelsch.

The agreement has already had a significant effect. Koelsch says Freedom House helped 52 people get asylum in Canada last month; that compares to 178 in January 2004.

“We’re getting calls every day from people saying, ‘We want to go to Canada’ — and we say, ‘You can’t,’” Koelsch says.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 12, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation