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I'm a refugee living in Canada. I escaped from my country, and I have two questions.

  • Is it safe for me to enter the consulate/embassy of my country? Note that I'm a "criminal" in my own country.
  • Is it safe for my child who doesn't have any connection with my "criminal case" to enter the consulate/embassy of my country? They are not a refugee and were given permanent residency after my permanent residency application as they were a minor at the time.

Is it possible to get arrested in an embassy/consulate, and how would I be transported to my country?

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    Why would you want to go to the embassy of your country of origin? Dec 6, 2022 at 19:12
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    If you asked for asylum in Country B because you have a proven fear of persecution from your home Country A, then doesn't voluntarily entering the Embassy/Consulate of Country A kind of refute that original reason?
    – CGCampbell
    Dec 7, 2022 at 15:49
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    Just make sure to have an official will written before you go inside that embassy.
    – Nasser
    Dec 8, 2022 at 5:32

3 Answers 3

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Is it safe for me to enter the consulate/embassy of my country? Note that I'm a "criminal" in my own country.

In general, no. Canada cannot protect you from your country of origin while you are in its embassy or consulate because these places are "inviolable" under the Vienna conventions on diplomatic and consular relations. This means that Canada cannot exercise jurisdiction there except with permission of the ambassador or consul.

Whether it's safe for you depends on your country and probably on the nature of your purported crime.

Is it safe for my child who doesn't have any connection with my "criminal case" to enter the consulate/embassy of my country?

When your child is subject to your country's jurisdiction, the only thing that prevents your country from persecuting your child for your purported crime is your country's own legal system. How effective is that system at preventing the country's government from violating people's rights in that way? What is the possibility that the country would undertake a secret operation to avoid the scrutiny of its judiciary? These questions have very different answers depending on the country and depending on how important you are to your country, but you likely have a good idea of what the answers are for your case and your country. I suspect that this may be a case of "if you have to ask, you already know the answer," but maybe not. I doubt that Edward Snowden's eventual children would have much to fear from the US, for example.

Is it possible to get arrested in an embassy/consulate, and how would I be transported to my country?

Yes, it's possible. Your country would have a difficult time getting you out, however. There are cases of countries trying to smuggle prisoners out in the so-called "diplomatic bag," which can actually be any sort of container. For example:

In 1964, a Moroccan-born Israeli double agent named Mordechai Louk was drugged, bound, and placed in a diplomatic mailing crate at the Egyptian Embassy in Rome, but was rescued by Italian authorities. The box that he had been sealed into "had almost certainly been used before for human cargo," including possibly for an Egyptian military official who had defected to Italy several years before but then disappeared without a trace before reappearing under Egyptian custody and facing trial.

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_bag)

Others have mentioned Jamal Khashoggi.

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    There are multiple ways to get people out of the country without their consent. Drugged and flown out as seriously ill patient returning home. In the trunk of a diplomatic car. etc.
    – Jan
    Dec 7, 2022 at 9:50
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    @Jan but they're all contrary to the diplomatic conventions and require bringing the person through Canadian territory, where Canadian authorities can intercept the person. The fact that the person is contained in a protected vehicle or container deprives the vehicle or container of its protection (e.g. "may contain only diplomatic documents or articles intended for official use"), so if Canada has good reason to believe that the person is being smuggled out, they can prevent it. In other words, the country would have a difficult time accomplishing this.
    – phoog
    Dec 7, 2022 at 10:05
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    But such things have been done before, and that the police would theoretically be allowed to intervene does not yet mean that they will intervene in time in the real world. Though both of these cases were in Europe and Canada is somewhat different.
    – Jan
    Dec 7, 2022 at 11:28
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    @Jan I think the question is about whether the person is protected by the Canadian law, while in the embassy/consulate. If they know that it is not legally safe and still decide to go - then the other question is how the country in question would arrest and transport them, and whether they would bother at all, given the gravity of the alleged crimes. It might be still de facto safe to go there, even though de jure it is not.
    – Roger V.
    Dec 8, 2022 at 12:21
  • @Jan indeed. The point of saying "your country would have a difficult time getting you out" is to imply that it could happen. The country would have to take some illegal steps to make it happen, however, and there's a chance (perhaps small) that they would fail because Canada would foil their efforts. Had I wanted to say that the country would be unable to get someone out in these circumstances I would have used a word other than "difficult."
    – phoog
    Dec 9, 2022 at 11:01
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No, it is not safe.

I would not advise you or your child to do so, especially if your original country is an authoritarian state that has a history of suppressing dissidents.

By law, an embassy of country A within country B is considered the territory of country A. That means the moment you step into that embassy, you are under country A's jurisdiction where Canadian law cannot protect you.

This also means that your original country can - in theory - do anything to you within the limitations of their law. This includes holding your child as political hostage in order to force you to turn yourself in.

Examples:

  • Jamal Khashoggi in Istambul: This is the probably the most gruesome and high-profile case that pushed this legal theory to the limit. It is widely believed that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered within the Saudi embassy when he thought he was safe.

  • Hong Kong dissident in UK: Several Hong Kong dissidents were dragged - against their will - into the Chinese embassy in UK while protesting outside. The act tentamount to kidnapping dissidents from one legal jurisdiction to another, the dissidents were beaten by Chinese officials on UK soil.

Please seek legal advice before taking action. From quick search, I found organizations such as Canadian Council for Refugees might be able to give legal advice about your situation.

Exercise caution as your status is vulnerable regardless which part of the world you are in.

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    "an embassy of country A within country B is considered the territory of country A": this is not correct. Embassies and consulates remain under the sovereignty of the receiving country (country B in this example), but the premises of an embassy and certain parts of the premises of a consulate are "inviolable" by the receiving country, so it cannot exercise its jurisdiction there except with the consent of the sending country (country A).
    – phoog
    Dec 6, 2022 at 8:47
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    The conclusion is correct, however - Canadian law cannot protect you.
    – MSalters
    Dec 6, 2022 at 10:33
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    Killing you inside the embassy would be murder. If the murderer had diplomatic immunity, they wouldn't be prosecuted. Until there is a revolution in your country overthrowing the old government.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 6, 2022 at 15:16
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    @gnasher729 The purported killers of Jamal Khashoggi were prosecuted by Saudi Arabia, as permitted by diplomatic immunity. Whether the trial was fair and just, and whether all responsible where taken to trial is a different matter.
    – user71659
    Dec 7, 2022 at 23:48
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Depends on the country in question, and possibly also on the crime. If the country is prepared to abide by norms of civilized conduct, it should be safe. Cases like the Kashoggi murder were shocking because they were exceptional.

You might also check if dealing with the country of origins puts your refugee status into question.

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    +1 for "check if dealing with the country of origins puts your refugee status into question". It isn't too reassuring that murders are generally exceptional, though, since OP probably doesn't have spare lives.
    – Ángel
    Dec 7, 2022 at 2:13
  • That logic seems very flawed considering the exact same thing could be said about riding in cars on the highway, etc. Everyone knows deaths there are exceptional, but but far from impossible, and the fact that they do not have spare lives still does not stop them. Dec 8, 2022 at 14:42
  • @CodeClown42, the number of people who do not drive on highways for fear of accidents are rather small compared to the total population. The OP mentioned neither the country nor the supposed crime. On average, it should be safe.
    – o.m.
    Dec 8, 2022 at 19:02
  • By "that logic" I meant @Ángel 's, not yours. My point was, the possibility of death, considered as "generally exceptional", generally does not stop people from doing things -- but this is dependent upon the odds, and not, as implied in the first comment, simply because it is a "generally exceptional" possibility. If we shied away from the simple possibility, we wouldn't get out of bed (or we'd be in an impossible conundrum, since staying in bed indefinitely also entails a "generally exceptional" but still very real possibility of death). IOW, this is a totally chimeric line of reasoning. Dec 8, 2022 at 20:00

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