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Ottawa has reached a deal with U.S. to allow it to close Roxham Road: sources

A family of asylum seekers from Colombia is met by RCMP officers after crossing the border at Roxham Road into Canada on February 9, 2023. Sources tell Radio-Canada the Canadian and American governments have reached a deal which would shut down the irregular border crossing. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

A family of asylum seekers from Colombia is met by RCMP officers after crossing the border at Roxham Road into Canada on February 9, 2023. Sources tell Radio-Canada the Canadian and American governments have reached a deal which would shut down the irregular border crossing. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Photo: (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

RCI

Flow of asylum seekers at irregular border crossing a source of tension between Canada and U.S.

Radio-Canada has learned (new window) that the Trudeau government has reached a deal with the United States on irregular migration which will allow Ottawa to close the Roxham Road irregular crossing at the Canada-U.S. border.

Sources told Radio-Canada that Ottawa has agreed to welcome a certain number of migrants through official channels. The precise details of the deal are still not known.

Roxham Road is on the Quebec-New York border about 50 km south of Montreal. It has been a lingering source of tension between Ottawa, Quebec and the United States because of an influx of asylum seekers entering Canada through it.

The news comes just ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's first official visit to Canada as president. Biden will arrive in Ottawa Thursday and depart late on Friday. It's not clear whether the deal will be announced during or after the visit.

    Opposition parties and the Quebec government have pressured the Trudeau government on Roxham Road. Both Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Quebec Premier François Legault have called for the irregular border crossing's closure following a spike in asylum seekers this year. Legault said the number of asylum seekers has put a strain on his province's social services.

    Nearly two-thirds of asylum claims in Canada in 2022 were made in Quebec, according to government data. Almost 40,000 asylum seekers crossed the border from Roxham Road that year. The migrants were mainly from Haiti, Turkey, Colombia, Chile, Pakistan and Venezuela.

    Trudeau said last month (new window) that the only way to shut down Roxham is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement. But United States Ambassador David Cohen said that would do little to address irregular migration.

    The Safe Third Country Agreement prevents people from claiming asylum in Canada if they enter Canada from the U.S. at an official land border crossing. The idea is that asylum seekers should make their claim in the first safe country they can reach.

    Asylum seekers can still have their appeals heard in Canada if they enter at an unofficial crossing such as Roxham.

    Sources told Radio-Canada that Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser have worked behind the scenes with their American counterparts in recent weeks to reach a deal.

    New York state has paid for bus tickets (new window) for asylum seekers to go to Plattsburgh, New York, which is close to Roxham Road.

    Louis Blouin (new window)Richard Raycraft (new window) · CBC News · with files from Christian Paas-Lang and Darren Major

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