Ottawa fears a new influx of asylum seekers
Justin Trudeau's government cites significant risks in the event of suspension of the Agreement on safe third countries with the United States.
Signs tell migrants to stop at the end from Roxham Road, at the Canada-US border.
“We want to avoid [having] a higher number [of asylum seekers] in the country. »
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser made no secret of his fears during a session of the Standing Committee on Immigration on Friday. Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM).
Questioned by various elected officials, the latter, for a rare time, publicly confided the Trudeau government's concerns in the event of the suspension of the Safe Third Country Agreement.
“We don't want to encourage people to take a dangerous journey.
— Sean Fraser, Federal Minister of Immigration
This suspension – possible under the terms of this agreement – has been demanded for several years by the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party (NDP).
This agreement, in place since 2004 with the United States, obliges migrants to apply for asylum in the first of the two countries they cross. However, it does not cover irregular crossings, outside border posts, such as the famous Roxham Road.
By taking this route, migrants can apply for a permit. asylum in Canada, legally.
The future of this text is currently being played out in court. The Supreme Court of Canada took up the case in October and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Minister Sean Fraser acknowledges that the Safe Third Country Agreement is “imperfect”.
By suspending this agreement, migrants could apply at any border crossing, across the country, support the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. Without necessarily going through Roxham Road.
A possibility rejected by Sean Fraser.
This would potentially lead us to a significant number of people, with disorganized demands. And this situation will exacerbate the challenges we face, claimed the Minister.
More and more people will want to leave their country to come to Canada, Mr. Fraser insisted, saying that Canada had a lot of opportunities because of its geography.
“It limits the number of people who arrive irregularly in our country compared to other countries.
—Sean Fraser, Federal Minister of Immigration
However, Minister Fraser did not want to move forward on negotiations with the United States to modernize this agreement. These are private conversations, he said, while acknowledging that these have been going on for four years.
An agreement that is imperfect is much better than no agreement , defended Sean Fraser.
The sign outside the entrance to Roxham Road, USA
Canada is having a record year for the number of asylum seekers.
In 2017, almost 19,000 migrants crossed the Roxham Road. A similar number had used this passage the following year, before a sharp slowdown due to the pandemic.
These records have already been broken this year. Between January and October, about 31,000 people passed through Roxham Road, according to data published by Immigration Canada.
Ottawa, however, does not seem able to provide clear projections for a balance sheet annual.
During this session of the CIMM, Deputy Minister Christiane Fox mentioned various data, while saying to expect very high figures to be expected. here the end of the year.
Probably around 50,000 [irregular entries], she said.
Neither Minister Fraser nor his cabinet subsequently wanted to confirm these estimates.
Roxham Road is not, however, the only gateway to Canada for asylum seekers.
Between January and October, nearly 72,000 refugee claims were made across the country, in all provinces, including those originating from Roxham Road. As recently revealed by Radio-Canada, thousands of Mexicans, for example, arrived at Montreal airport with the aim of obtaining a work permit.
This figure should increase significantly. By the end of the year, Canada could welcome between 84,000 and 94,000 asylum seekers, Deputy Minister Fox said.