On March 23, 2023, US President Joe Biden arrived at Ottawa, Canada for an overnight visit where he met with Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. During this visit, the two countries struck a new border deal affecting migrants entering through unofficial border crossings. This agreement came as a result of mutual effort to limit asylum seekers crossing at Roxham Road – a 3,145-mile (5,060km) road from New York state to Quebec.
What is the US-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement?
The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) originally came in place in 2004. Under the Agreement, migrants seeking asylum are required to make their claim in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for one of the exceptions listed under the Agreement.
One major loophole in the Agreement was that it allowed either country to turn asylum seekers at official ports of entry, but not at unofficial ones, such as Roxham Road. It has been reported that the vast majority of the 40,000 asylum seekers received by Canada last year have come through Roxham Road, making use of this loophole.
How Does The New Agreement Affect Asylum Seekers Crossing From the US?
The new deal extends the original Safe Third Country Agreement to include the entire US-Canada border, including internal waterways. Migrants coming from the US who are caught crossing anywhere along Roxham Road or any other unofficial border crossing can now be sent back to the US, unless they meet one of the relevant exceptions under the STCA. These exceptions include:
- Family member exceptions;
- Unaccompanied minors exception;
- Document holder exceptions;
- Public interest exceptions.
The expanded application of the STCA announced last month has been criticized by immigration lawyers and refugee advocates as ineffective to ending unofficial border crossing. In fact, many have expressed concern that the new deal will increase human smuggling and potentially endanger the lives of countless individuals feeling violence and persecution.
New Programme for Refugees From Central and South America
In addition to the expanded application of the STCA, Canada has also announced that it will create a new refugee programme for 15,000 migrants fleeing persecution and violence in Central and South America. This came as a result of discussions between President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau regarding the ongoing instability in Haiti which is currently experiencing a devastating economic crisis, gang violence, and many kidnappings. The set quota for the new programme has been considered too low in comparison with the 40,000 migrants who crossed the boarder in just the past year alone.
How Can We Help
The Law Office of Matthew Jeffery has over 20 years of expertise assisting those making refugee claims in Canada, including those with extremely complicated cases. If you are interested in making a refugee claim, please contact us to see if we can assist you.