Roxham Road: Immigration rights advocates concerned about new deal
Advocates are voicing concerns about a deal between Canada and the U.S. to end an immigration loophole allowing migrants to claim asylum when they cross unofficial borders like Roxham Road.
As of midnight, both countries are closing the loophole, which since 2004 has allowed thousands to claim asylum in Canada.
It's a move that worries refugee and immigration rights advocate Rivka Augenfeld.
"Roxham Road is one of the safest places (to cross)," said Augenfeld. "There is a road. It's not far from the Lacolle border crossing. People are not in danger when they come that way."
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe. Potential refugees, therefore, must file their claims in the first country they reach. But that agreement only applies to claims made at official border crossings.
Refugee claimants are instead choosing to enter Canada at irregular crossings such as Roxham Road, allowing many to make their claims on Canadian soil and stay in the country.
The deal is changing that, extending the agreement along the 8,900 kilometres of the shared border. Asylum seekers instead would be turned back at irregular border crossings and returned to the U.S.
A crackdown on Roxham will only push people elsewhere, said Augenfeld.
"If someone is really desperate, they will do what they have to do, but it becomes more dangerous," she said.
The Safe Third Country Agreement is the subject of a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Immigration advocates argue that the United States can't be counted on to carry out Canada's obligations to refugees under international law.
"This is a global phenomenon. Migrants will keep coming, so what are we going to do?" said refugee advocate Marjorie Villefranche from Maison d'Haiti.
Some migrants coming to Canada from the U.S. will have a tougher time south of the border, said Augenfeld.
"People with gender claims have a problem. Women who have severe issues with gender violence and no protection in their country have had real problems in the United States. The Americans detain people in very bad conditions," she said.
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