What Is a Safe Third Country Agreement

A safe third country agreement is an agreement between two countries that allows for the transfer of asylum seekers from one country to another. The idea behind the agreement is that if a person has already been offered protection in one country, they should not be able to seek asylum in another country without a valid reason. This is intended to discourage “asylum shopping” or applying for asylum in multiple countries in order to find the most favorable conditions.

The concept of a safe third country agreement is based on the principle of non-refoulement, which is a cornerstone of international refugee law. Non-refoulement means that a country cannot return a person to a country where they are likely to face persecution, torture or other serious harm.

In a safe third country agreement, the two countries involved must agree that the asylum seeker will receive adequate protection in the third country. This means that the asylum seeker will not be sent back to the country they fled from, and will have access to a fair and efficient asylum process in the third country.

Safe third country agreements are controversial because they can be used to deny asylum seekers access to protection. Critics argue that not all countries are safe for asylum seekers, and that the agreements can be used to shift the responsibility for protecting refugees to countries that may not have the resources or political will to do so.

The European Union has been using safe third country agreements to manage the influx of refugees and migrants coming across the Mediterranean. In 2016, the EU signed a controversial agreement with Turkey, which allowed for the return of migrants and refugees who arrived in Greece from Turkey. The agreement was criticized by human rights organizations, who argued that Turkey was not a safe country for refugees.

In the United States, a safe third country agreement with Mexico was proposed in 2019. Under the agreement, asylum seekers who passed through Mexico to reach the United States would be returned to Mexico to await their asylum hearings. The agreement was challenged in court and has not yet been fully implemented.

Critics of safe third country agreements argue that they violate the principle of non-refoulement and can lead to the denial of asylum to those who need it. Proponents argue that they are necessary to prevent “asylum shopping” and to ensure that asylum seekers are not able to exploit the system for personal gain.

In conclusion, a safe third country agreement is an agreement between two countries that allows for the transfer of asylum seekers from one country to another. The purpose of the agreement is to discourage “asylum shopping” and to ensure that asylum seekers receive adequate protection. However, critics argue that the agreements can be used to deny asylum to those who need it and violate the principle of non-refoulement.

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