a crossing point between the United States and Canada is causing growing friction


Stop, orders a panel, it is illegal to cross the border here. “Directly attached, another sign, however, provides some valuable advice for” seek asylum in Canada “. These two juxtaposed notices, planted in American territory at the end of Roxham Road, less than ten kilometers from the village of Champlain, in the State of New York, and a few hundred meters from the official customs post of Saint-Bernard- de-Lacolle, in Quebec, say by themselves the legal incongruity of this gateway for immigrants: “irregular” but not illegal.

This border crossing point between the United States and Canada, located about 65 kilometers south of Montreal, is now known to all those around the world who yearn to find refuge for themselves or their families – also of all those who, such as smugglers, trade in this hope. In 2022, Canada Border Services Agency services recorded a record 39,171 entries.

This little stretch of road, known as Roxham Road in Canada, is expected to be on the menu of discussions between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden during the latter’s visit to Ottawa in March. . On the Canadian side, he has become a “irritating”. An article published on February 6 by the American tabloid New York Postrevealing that New York City, itself overwhelmed by the influx of migrants sent by southern Republican states, offered free tickets to some of them to head for this Canadian passageway, heated a little more still the spirits.

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A flaw in a deal

Roxham Road is the result of a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement signed between the two North American countries in 2002 and which came into effect two years later. This agreement intended to coordinate requests for protection, on the model of the Dublin agreements within the European Union, stipulates that migrants who wish to file an asylum request must do so in the first country where they arrive. A foreigner coming from the United States cannot therefore claim the protection of Canada, under penalty of being turned back.

Except that the Agreement only applies to points of entry “officials” between the two countries, the customs posts located on the roads and in the airports. Furthermore, under its own Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Canada considers“A potential refugee cannot be penalized for entering the country illegally, if he presents himself without delay to the competent authorities”. At Roxham Road, all the infrastructures are planned to fulfill this condition: after crossing the road to leave American territory, Mexicans, Haitians, Colombians, Indians or Nigerians attracted by a Canadian protection system deemed to be safer than that offered by the States United States, are registered by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers responsible for border control, then directed to the Border Services Agency to submit their asylum application.

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