Roxham Road in Quebec reopens to asylum seekers after pandemic ban

Asylum seekers who hope to cross the border at unauthorized border points, such as Roxham Road in Quebec, will once again be allowed to enter the country to make a claim.

The federal government lifted the ban on Sunday, citing the improved public health situation and the reopening of the land border with the United States. The ban, which has been in effect since late March last year, has seen potential refugees turned away at the border and returned to the United States.

Now, people who pass through unofficial crossings will once again be allowed to enter the country to seek asylum and remain in Canada.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the border should never have been closed to refugees in the first place, but was delighted to see it reopened.

“Keeping the door open for asylum seekers is one of the basic core obligations of the Government of Canada, and they have used the pandemic excuse for far too long,” said Dench. “But finally, this door is open.”

In a statement, the office of the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said all asylum seekers “must adhere to strict public health measures”, including a period of quarantine and drug tests. of COVID-19.

The numbers should climb, but not by much

The Canadian government has said that thanks to an agreement with the United States, asylum seekers who have been turned away will still be able to apply now that the measures have been lifted.

The government has also said it expects more asylum seekers to arrive at crossings such as Roxham Road in light of the ban being lifted.

However, he doesn’t expect the numbers to reach the levels of 2017 and 2018, when thousands of asylum seekers are said to arrive at Roxham Road every month.

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Marjorie Villefranche, executive director of the Montreal association La Maison d’Haïti, said that to her knowledge there were around 120 asylum seekers who had recently arrived in Montreal.

She said she didn’t expect large numbers of asylum seekers to use Roxham Road, in part because they don’t necessarily need to do so at the land border.

“[Crossing] via Roxham Road is for asylum seekers who are waiting in the United States and would like to come here, “she said.” Otherwise, they arrive by plane. “

Those arriving by plane can also make a refugee claim once they arrive on Canadian soil.

Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said she also expects fewer crossings. She said many asylum seekers felt the need to come to Canada because of the policies put in place by the Trump administration.

“There were people who had been in the United States for a while and no longer felt safe,” she said. “Of course, the political context is quite different now, which means we don’t expect nearly the same numbers.”

Safe Third Country Agreement

Villefranche and Dench say the government should always repeal the safe third country agreement, saying it forces asylum seekers to use irregular crossings like Roxham Road.

Under this treaty, an asylum seeker must make his claim in the first “safe country” he arrives. This means that asylum seekers arriving in Canada from the United States are turned away at official ports of entry.

Dench said if Canada pulls out of the Safe Third Country Agreement, claimants won’t need to use illegal crossings like Roxham Road.

Villefranche echoed the sentiment, wondering what the purpose of the treaty was when people can easily cross over to make their demands.

“Why [are we] keep that deal? ”she asked.

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