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Canada defends pandemic policy on asylum-seekers while letting more enter through exemptions

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The Canadian government is trying to quash a legal challenge to its policy of turning back asylum-seekers entering the country between border crossings, saying the group bringing it lacks standing, even as it has granted a growing number of exemptions to the policy.

The parties were in court on Thursday arguing over who should be able to bring a case in the public interest.

Since March 2020, Canada has turned back at least 544 asylum-seekers trying to cross from the United States between ports of entry, government figures show.

The government says its policy is justified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the exemptions it has granted prove recourse is available.

Refugee lawyers said that these exemptions are inadequate, as at least one asylum-seeker was deported from the United States after receiving an exemption, and belie the policy’s justification.

Refugee travel is not discretionary,” said Maureen Silcoff, a refugee lawyer and past president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, which earlier this year challenged https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/exclusive-canada-taken-court-over-covid-policy-that-pushes-asylum-seekers-us-2021-05-04 the policy.

The government argues that the association lacks legal standing and its challenge should be struck.

The association is neither the intended beneficiary nor the target of the rule and “has no real stake or genuine interest in the outcome of this litigation,” the government said in a court filing. It said asylum-seekers who have been turned back should bring the case.

Refugee lawyers said those asylum-seekers, some of whom end up in U.S. immigration detention, are poorly placed to challenge the policy.

Starting in July, Canada increased the number of National Interest Exemptions it issued to asylum-seekers who had been turned back, enabling them to enter Canada and file refugee claims.

Between March 2020 and July 2021, Canada had granted just eight such exemptions. By Oct. 14, that number had risen to 159 exemptions, according to documents filed in court.

Canada’s immigration ministry did not respond to questions about the criteria for these exemptions.

Canada has a Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States under which asylum-seekers who present at a land border crossing are turned back. It has been challenged twice but upheld most recently this spring https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-usa-refugee-agreement-idCAKBN2C22XH.

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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Merck ties up with Thermo Fisher to make its COVID-19 pill in Canada

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Drugmaker Merck & Co on Monday announced a deal with Thermo Fisher Scientific to manufacture its experimental COVID-19 pill at the medical device maker’s site in Whitby, Ontario.

The site will manufacture the pill, molnupiravir, for distribution in Canada and the United Kingdom as well as markets in the European Union, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

The Ontario site is one of three manufacturing sites in the world for the pill, which is being developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Merck on Friday said the government of Canada had secured access to 500,000 courses of molnupiravir in 2022, with options for up to 500,000 more, pending the country’s health regulator’s nod.

The drugmaker said it had filed the final molnupiravir real-time application seeking approval in Canada last month. The UK in November conditionally approved molnupiravir, branded as Lagevrio.

The company had also entered into a pact with the U.S. government to supply as many as 5 million courses of the antiviral at a price of $700 per course.

Merck is awaiting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision after the regulator’s panel of independent advisers voted to recommend the pill’s authorization.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Shailesh Kuber)

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Canadian traveller forced to stay in quarantine facility after negative COVID-19 test – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
Lennard Skead says he felt like he’d been put in jail for a crime he didn’t commit when he returned to Canada from South Africa on Thursday.

Skead, who lives in Brandon, Man., said he wasn’t allowed to leave a Toronto quarantine hotel until the day after he received a negative result on the COVID-19 test he completed when he arrived in Canada.

“Our negative results came out on Saturday, but we are not allowed to leave until the quarantine officer calls us and tells us you can leave now. Nobody called us. Nobody called us until Sunday,” said Skead, who was travelling with his wife, Charlotte.

Skead, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, said in an interview Monday that by the time he was told he could leave, he had already cancelled a flight back to Manitoba, keeping him in the hotel for another day. It was Skead’s third negative COVID-19 test of the trip.

Canadians travelling from one of 10 African countries, including South Africa and Egypt, are required to obtain a COVID-19 test in the country they’re travelling from, obtain a second test while in transit and get a third after arrival in Canada. They are required to stay at a designated facility on arrival.

Health Canada said in an email Monday that the requirement for testing in transit “is in place so that the risk of the traveller being exposed to the virus and its variants between the time of testing and boarding the plane, which can take up to 72 hours, is reduced.”

Tiffany Gaura, who returned to Calgary from Cairo on Saturday, said she felt after landing in Canada that she was being punished for travelling to Africa.

“From the time you give them your passport, they call somebody immediately who then stays with you, takes you through to a separate secondary screening area where they question you extensively, read you your rights, tell you you have a right to a lawyer and you’re being transported by the federal government to an isolation facility,” she said in an interview Monday.

While the quarantine facility is in a hotel, she said, it doesn’t have any of the usual hotel services, like a restaurant, cleaning or room service.

Gaura, who was travelling with her two children, aged five and eight, said she doesn’t understand why she had to stay in a quarantine hotel instead of returning to her nearby home to isolate there.

“This is absurd for a family with a solid quarantine plan, who has no history of not following public health directives, who’s fully vaccinated, who’s following all the rules, who has done all the PCR tests,” she said.

Asked about reports of poor conditions in federal quarantine facilities, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Monday the requirement is “a necessary and fair trade-off.”

“We’re not going to spare any expense or resources when it comes to protecting Canadians, including at the border. We’re going to continue to provide clear travel guidance to all Canadians and others who are travelling to Canada,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

Gaura said she thinks Canada’s decision to place additional restrictions only on African nations at a time when the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is present in Europe and the United States is “opportunistic and xenophobic.”

She said she was lucky she was able to clear German customs and get a PCR test while transiting in Frankfurt, because while Canada has put restrictions on Egypt, Germany has not.

On Saturday, the federal government announced that travellers coming from South Africa and transiting through Frankfurt would be exempt from the in-transit testing requirement until Dec. 13.

Tasha-ann Bussell of Rossland, B.C., whose husband was in South Africa for his brother’s wedding, said he was able to use that new exemption to get on a flight home, due to land in Calgary Monday.

“He’s exhausted and stressed,” Bussell said in an interview Monday. “We have three small children and my youngest and the middle child have birthdays in December so he’ll miss that … at least he’s gonna be home for Christmas.”

She adds she’s not angry with the government for implementing the regulations because one of her children is immunocompromised.

“I really appreciate the fact that they are trying their best,” she said. “It’s just hard. That’s all it is.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.

— With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton.

——

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Canada updates travel rules for Canadians flying in from South Africa – Canada Immigration News

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Published on December 6th, 2021 at 10:30am EST

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Travellers walking through an airport with luggage, wearing surgical masks

Travellers walking through an airport with luggage, wearing surgical masks

Canada has temporarily tweaked its travel rules to allow Canadians to return home from South Africa without having to do a COVID-19 test in a third country.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be able to get a pre-departure test in South Africa, provided they meet all of the following eligibility requirements on the government website:

  • Get a pre-departure negative COVID-19 molecular test from an accredited laboratory in South Africa no more than 48 hours before the scheduled departure, or a positive test result from between 14 and 180 days before departure.
  • Fly from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Frankfurt, Germany on a Lufthansa flight that departs on or before December 13, 2021.
  • Transit through Frankfurt airport to travel on a direct Lufthansa or Air Canada flight to Canada.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

The Canadian government made the amendment on Saturday evening, after Canadians spoke out against the new travel rules. Many said the requirement to get tested in a third country prevented them from returning home.

Canada implemented the rules following the emergence of the Omicron variant. So far, travellers from 10 countries are restricted from coming to Canada:

  • Botswana
  • Egypt;
  • Eswatini;
  • Lesotho;
  • Malawi;
  • Mozambique;
  • Namibia;
  • Nigeria;
  • South Africa; and
  • Zimbabwe.

On Friday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra tweeted four flow charts that offer visual guidance on the new travel measures.

Regardless of vaccination status, if you are a Canadian coming home from one of the 10 prohibited countries, you have to go into isolation after you arrive. You also have to do COVID-19 tests upon arriving to the airport, and on day 8 of your quarantine.

Vaccinated travellers from all countries other than the U.S. will need to do an on-arrival test and quarantine until they receive a negative result. If the result is positive, they must remain in isolation for 10 days.

Unvaccinated travellers from all countries other than the U.S. who are allowed to come to Canada, will need to quarantine at home for 14 days.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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