The details that leaked Thursday on the agreement between Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden about the upcoming closure of Roxham Road leave those involved with migrants stunned. They fear that people seeking safety will find themselves in danger trying to cross the border.
“We are in shock,” sums up Stephan Reichhold, director of the Round Table of Organizations Serving Refugees and Immigrants (TCRI). “We expected a tightening, but not as drastic, he explains. I think it’s worse than the agreements in Europe, it’s going to be a humanitarian disaster. »
Under this new Trudeau-Biden agreement, the Safe Third Country Agreement will now also apply to irregular entry points at the Canada-US border. Remember that this agreement obliges asylum seekers to submit their application in the first safe country, Canada or the United States, where they arrive. At this time, the agreement only applies to official entries – border crossings, trains and planes.
The new pact negotiated between Canada and the United States would allow the two countries to intercept and return anyone who tries to cross the approximately 9,000 kilometers of border between them, including entry points like Roxham Road.
According to details that leaked to various media on Thursday, people could be intercepted up to 14 days after crossing the border. “So people will hide in the forest for 14 days,” Reichhold said.
For Frantz André, member of the Action Committee for People Without Status (CAPSS), this announcement does not mean that asylum seekers will now stop crossing the border in both directions. “These are people who have [sometimes] crossed 10 to 14 countries, who almost died, so they will find other entry points, elsewhere, which are less safe,” he predicts.
He recalls the tragic death of Fritznel Richard, this asylum seeker of Haitian origin found dead near Roxham Road in the middle of December, while trying to find his family in the United States. “Politics has taken over the humanitarian issue,” he said.
It remains to be seen what the exact terms of this new agreement will be. Exceptions could, for example, be granted for people who have family in Canada, or for unaccompanied minors, observes Mr. Reichhold.
But if the details made public Thursday are confirmed, “there will be a very strong mobilization across Canada,” said the director. “And we must not forget [all the asylum seekers] who are in Quebec, who must be taken care of. The problem is not solved. »
People crossing the border on Roxham Road aren’t just numbers, says André. “They are first and foremost humans who come to contribute [to society]. These are people who do not need to be traumatized at the border. »