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Roxham Road | Towards a record 50,000 asylum seekers

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(OTTAWA) The federal government predicts that a record number of nearly 50,000 asylum seekers will have crossed the Canada-US border irregularly via Roxham Road during the year 2022.

These projections, if true, will smash the previous record in this area set in 2017 when 18,836 asylum seekers crossed Canadian soil via this route for the whole year.

This record was also exceeded this summer. According to the latest data published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), 23,538 people were intercepted by the RCMP during the first seven months of the year, between January and August. But in recent weeks, Canadian authorities have seen a noticeable increase in the number of people arriving in the country via Roxham Road. Their number rose from a hundred applicants per day in the spring to more than 150 in August, and sometimes even 300 per day on weekends. Ottawa estimates that this pace has since accelerated due to the proliferation of illicit migration networks.


In September, Radio-Canada published an exhaustive investigation into the lucrative activities of a well-oiled network of smugglers who use white vans or taxis to transport asylum seekers.

We will reach approximately 50,000 asylum seekers in 2022. It is obvious that this will cause enormous pressure. But we still have to take care of these people and process their asylum applications.

A government source who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the case

These most recent projections are added to the similar number of immigrants that Quebec wants to welcome annually through the normal channels of its immigration system. During the election campaign, François Legault’s Coalition avenir Québec set a target of 50,000 immigrants per year.

Humanitarian crisis mentioned

According to information obtained by The Pressthese projections have the Trudeau government fearing the worst, while many are warning that the flow of migrants crossing the border via Roxham Road has exploded to such an extent that we see a humanitarian crisis coming.

The massive influx of these asylum seekers threatens to increase the pressures that are already being felt on areas such as housing, access to health care and the immigration system, which is already overwhelmed with requests for all kinds. While waiting for their application to be processed, asylum seekers can submit a request for last-resort financial assistance to the Government of Quebec.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

A Haitian migrant crosses the Canada-US border via Roxham Road.

Behind the scenes, it is recognized in the Liberal ranks that the immigration file remains a subject of friction between Ottawa and Quebec. During the election campaign, François Legault also mentioned the idea of ​​holding a sectoral referendum on immigration in order to obtain more powers from Ottawa. Currently, immigration is a shared jurisdiction between Quebec and Ottawa under an administrative agreement concluded between the two capitals. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already rejected François Legault’s request. According to him, Quebec already has all the tools it needs in terms of immigration to choose the vast majority of immigrants who arrive on its territory.

The fact remains that Roxham Road has again become a real highway for migrants who arrive in the country irregularly to claim asylum since the reopening of the Canada-US border. During the pandemic, the number of irregular migrants using this route to come to Canada had decreased considerably in 2020 (3189 applicants) and in 2021 (4095 applicants). But since January, the increase in asylum seekers has been meteoric.

Road closure requested

For the past few months, the Legault government has been asking Ottawa to close Roxham Road. “We are clearly asking the federal government, Justin Trudeau, to close Roxham Road because it is becoming impossible to manage the number of people arriving there. We can’t go on like this, ”said Mr. Legault in May.

The Bloc Québécois is also urging the Trudeau government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States to resolve this problem, while the Conservative Party is calling for a tightening of border control measures.

Last December, The Press reported that the Trudeau government has quietly negotiated a new version of this deal with the Biden administration in Washington that, once in place, would allow it to close this border breach.

Essentially, these amendments would give Canadian authorities the power to return a refugee claimant to the United States, regardless of whether they present themselves at an official port of entry on the Canada-United States border to make this claim or drop it off after crossing the border irregularly.


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

A man is transported from the Roxham Road border crossing to Lacolle.

Under the current agreement, only individuals who apply for asylum at an official border crossing are returned to the United States.

However, the Trudeau government is still waiting for the Biden administration to adopt the relevant regulations that implement the changes on which Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and her American counterpart Antony Blinken have agreed.

But the Biden administration does not give the same priority to this file as the Trudeau government. It concentrates most of its efforts on plugging the gap in its border with Mexico.

“It’s not moving fast in Washington,” a government source recently confirmed to The Press.

An earlier version of this text indicated that the Conservative Party wanted to end the Safe Third Country Agreement. In fact, he is calling for the agreement to be renegotiated to close the loophole that allows migrants to claim asylum when they cross the border elsewhere than at a border crossing.



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