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Seeking Safety

A family of asylum seekers crossing the United States/Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, 2017. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

 

Through the use of video, images and documents, Seeking Safety looks at the plight of asylum seekers trying to reach safety in Canada. The exhibit also clarifies differences between asylum seekers and refugees, as well as the misunderstandings surrounding these terms. This exhibit will be on display in our Level 5 Rights Today gallery from October 2017 to October 2018.

 

Original film production

Seeking Safety features an original film shot in several Canadian locations. Hear the testimonials of Eddy Ramírez, an asylum seeker from Venezuela, and Mohammed Alsaleh, a resettled refugee from Syria. Learn about the differences between asylum seekers and refugees, as an expert in refugee law breaks down common misconceptions about them. Through documents, images and interviews, the film explores the varying rights granted to asylum seekers and refugees once they arrive in Canada, as well as Canada’s legal and moral obligations.

 

Forced migrants’ experiences

Eddy Ramírez was studying English in Montréal when political upheaval in her home country of Venezuela forced her to ask for asylum in Canada in 2014. Ramírez now works as an immigration consultant in Montréal. (Photo: Jessica Sigurdson/CMHR)

The exhibit showcases the experiences of two young people who were forced to seek safety in Canada because of human rights crises in their countries of origin. Visitors can discover who these people are and why they sought the protection of Canada. Eddy Ramírez – a student activist and recent law graduate from Venezuela – was studying English in Montréal when anti-government protests erupted back home. She was forced to make a refugee claim in Canada. Mohammed Alsaleh was a medical student in Syria when the Arab Spring reached his country. He was arrested and tortured on three separate occasions for documenting the abuses committed against protesters and for posting these on social media. After his release, he fled to Lebanon, where he registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. One month later, he was resettled to Vancouver as a refugee. 

Mohammed Alsaleh (far right), a resettled Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in 2014, poses with other Syrian refugees in Vancouver in 2016. Alsaleh now works as a settlement worker for the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia. (Photo: Jennifer Gauthier/Metro News)

 

Unauthorized border crossings

The right to asylum is protected in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). International law recognizes that asylum seekers may need to enter a country irregularly or without official documentation. Article 31 of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees prohibits governments from penalizing asylum seekers who enter or remain irregularly on their territory. This prohibition is reflected in Canadian law in section 133 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. As a result, Canada recognizes that some refugees will come as asylum seekers and others who cannot make it to Canada on their own will be resettled as refugees. Therefore, terms like “illegals,” “illegal migrants” and “illegal immigrants” are not accurate as these terms criminalize people without considering who they are, where they come from and why they are here.

Asylum seekers being arrested for irregularly crossing the United States/Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, 2017. (Photo: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

 

Human Rights Education

An exhibit such as Seeking Safety provides an opportunity for the Museum to share information regarding asylum seekers and refugees at a time when an increasing number of asylum seekers asking for refugee protection in Canada are arriving at our borders. It also represents an opportunity to clarify common misconceptions about asylum seekers and refugees.