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Negotiations underway to eliminate 'Roxham Roads' in Canada: source


Canada and the United States are negotiating a deal that could designate all 8,900 kilometres of their shared border as an official crossing under the Safe Third Country Agreement.

A Canadian government official with knowledge of the talks says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden will discuss the issue when they meet in Ottawa on Friday.

The Canadian Press is granting anonymity to the official to discuss matters not yet made public.

Such a deal would not physically close off the Roxham Road unofficial crossing in Quebec, where thousands of migrants have entered Canada so they can make an asylum claim.

But it would mean that migrants who continue to cross there, or at any other unofficial crossing, would be treated as if they crossed at an official border checkpoint and returned to the United States to make an asylum claim there.

Those travelling into the U.S. from Canada at unofficial crossings would likewise be returned to Canada by American authorities.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, first signed between the U.S. and Canada in 2004, asylum-seekers must make their claim in the first country they arrive. That currently only applies to official border crossings.

But increasing numbers of migrants are opting to get around that rule by crossing at unofficial locations, such as at Roxham Road, 50 kilometres south of Montreal. In 2022, 39,000 people claimed asylum after crossing an unofficial border point into Quebec.

The official stressed there is no deal on paper at this time and a lot of details are still to be worked out, including Canada agreeing to take on a certain number of migrants from the U.S. through official channels.

The two leaders will likely address the talks following their bilateral meeting in Ottawa Friday. But whether they make a formal announcement of a deal — or just say they intend to reach a deal — is still to be determined, the official said.

Trudeau and Biden are set to meet for a formal bilateral discussion in Trudeau's Parliament Hill office Friday morning. Biden arrives in Canada Thursday night for a 27-hour state visit, his first formal trip to Canada since being sworn in as the U.S. president in January 2021.

Canada and the United States have been discussing how to improve the Safe Third Country Agreement for nearly five years.

In Canada, there are political divisions about what to do, with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre calling for Canada to just "close" Roxham Road.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, for his part, wants the Safe Third Country Agreement suspended, allowing any migrant to make a claim in Canada regardless of how they get here.

Irregular migration was also on the agenda when Trudeau and Biden met in January at the North American Leaders' Summit in Mexico City, and last June at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 23, 2023 Top Stories

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