Since this weekend, it has become more difficult for asylum seekers to enter Canada from the United States. One of the issues behind the agreement is the “Roxham Road”, the makeshift route by which tens of thousands of migrants bypassed the official ports of entry.
Since March 25, 2023, asylum seekers can be turned back along the entire U.S.-Canada border. As recently as last week, it was possible to go through unofficial border points. The best known of these was “Roxham Road”, a small stretch of road south of Montreal. A few days ago, we witnessed the attempted crossing of a Haitian man, intercepted by the Canadian police.
“- Stop sir! Do you understand French?
– Yes, I understand French.
– You are currently in the United States. This is Canada, okay?
– This is not a designated entrance to cross legally. If you cross here, we will arrest you. Do you understand?
– Yeah, I got it.”
Arrivals on this path would indeed get stopped. But the authorities were registering their asylum claims and more than half of them were accepted.
Nearly 40,000 migrants were able to enter Canada last year via the “Roxham Road” thanks to a legal loophole. The “safe third country” agreement defined in 2004 by Canada and the United States stipulates that an asylum seeker is obliged to make his or her claim in the first “safe” country in which he or she arrives.
However, by passing through unofficial points, he could declare that he had arrived directly in Canada, which was considered more welcoming, and not have passed through the United States. But now, Roxham Road – like the entire border – is included in this agreement: asylum seekers arriving from the U.S. will now be turned away.
This new situation worries NGOs, because for asylum seekers, arriving in Canada is the end of a long journey. Many are fleeing violence in their country. They are Haitians, Colombians, Venezuelans… They risk taking roads much more dangerous than the “Roxham”. In exchange for this road closure, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to accept 15,000 additional asylum seekers from the American continent.