Safe Third Country Agreement Definition

A Safe Third Country Agreement refers to a pact signed by two countries that establishes one of them as a `safe` country for refugees seeking asylum. If a refugee passed through the country designated as `safe,` then they are required to apply for asylum in that country instead of continuing their journey to the other nation. The goal of Safe Third Country Agreements is to prevent multiple countries from processing the same asylum claim and reduce the movement of refugees across borders.

The legal basis of Safe Third Country Agreements is the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of a refugee to a country where they may face persecution or danger. This principle is part of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which is the foundation of international refugee law. The Safe Third Country Agreement, therefore, requires that both countries have a comparable refugee protection system and ensure that refugees are not returned to a place where they could face harm.

The Safe Third Country Agreement first came to prominence in the 1990s, when the European Union introduced it as a means of sharing the burden of refugees with neighboring countries. Since then, the agreement has become a standard approach for many countries worldwide. However, the issue of which country is `safe` enough to be designated as such remains controversial. Some countries question the criteria used to define a `safe` country, while others argue that the agreement undermines the rights of refugees to seek protection and violates international refugee law.

One significant example of the use of Safe Third Country Agreements was seen in the United States. In 2019, the US government reached a pact with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, in which these countries were designated as `safe` and required to accept asylum seekers from the US. However, critics argued that these countries lacked adequate legal and social structures to protect refugees and could further harm them.

In conclusion, while the goal of Safe Third Country Agreements is to streamline the processing of asylum claims and reduce the movement of refugees across borders, the issue remains controversial. The designation of a country as `safe` is contested and often criticized for violating international refugee law. Therefore, it is essential to consider the legal and social structures of countries before signing such agreements.