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'This should be banned': Federal NDP wants update to immigration agreement suspended

The federal NDP is calling for the suspension of a controversial update to an immigration agreement with the United States.

Seidu Mohammed fled his home country of Ghana in 2016 to escape prosecution for being part of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

Mohammed spent four months in United States immigration detention before his asylum claim was rejected.

He then made the difficult decision to try and enter Canada irregularly by foot, forced to wade through waist-deep snow.

"There was no shelter. No place to go. It was dark, snowy, windy, very cold, and my friend and I, all we were hoping for was just [freedom]," said Mohammed.

Mohammed said he only survived because a truck driver found him and his friend on the side of the road.

Mohammed was ultimately able to claim asylum in Canada and receive his Canadian citizenship certificate, but the trip across the border cost him his fingers due to frostbite.

He was one of several speakers at a federal NDP press conference Monday calling for the Government of Canada to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.

"If this law, the way the government wants to apply it, it would mean that Mr. Mahommed would not be with us here today," said Jenny Kwan, NDP critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship.

The Safe Third Country Agreement is a deal between the U.S. and Canada requiring asylum seekers to make their claim in the first safe country they reach.

The federal government's surprise update in March allows both countries to turn back migrants who are looking to make asylum claims at unofficial points, something that could previously only be done at official crossings.

According to a letter penned by Kwan to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, she believes the update pushed asylum seekers further underground and increase the risks they take.

"So in the face of what's happened with people who have been found dead in the field. I think there is more of that to come with the application of this agreement, and it must stop," said Kwan at the news conference.

A statement to CTV News from Sean Fraser's office, the federal minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said the update promotes regular pathways and safe migration.

"These tragic stories do not start at the Canada-US border. Individuals are facing immense danger from the moment they leave their country of origin and all throughout their journey. That's why it's important for individuals to seek asylum in the first safe country they are in, and prevent further risk to their health and wellbeing," read part of the statement.

Knowing how treacherous the journey can be, previous asylum seeker Mohammed said turning migrants away goes against Canadian values.

"This should be banned. It shouldn't be that way because Canada is a place where it can keep refugees and immigrants safe," he said.

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