Why asylum seekers are choosing Canada in record numbers

2 months ago 53

Photo of the extremity  of Roxham Road starring  to the Canadian borderline  successful  the mediate  of a snowy FebruaryImage source, Eloise Alanna/BBC

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Even successful the bitter Canadian cold, a grounds fig of migrants proceed to transverse from the US to Canada done Roxham Road

By Nadine Yousif

BBC News, Montreal

Last year, astir 40,000 migrants crossed into Canada astatine an unofficial borderline astatine the extremity of a distant agrarian roadworthy successful upstate New York - a grounds fig - to question asylum. Many are driven by the content that the state is much welcoming than the US. But tin Canada grip the influx?

On a snowy wintertime day, Roxham Road is acold and quiet. The soundlessness is interrupted by the dependable of wheels approaching the extremity of the path, oregon the crunching of footsteps connected snow.

Around 150 migrants are dropped disconnected present each day, determined to measurement ft into Canada. Many began their travel arsenic acold distant arsenic Brazil, with this roadworthy successful New York authorities arsenic their decorativeness line.

Roxham Road is not an authoritative borderline point. There are nary borderline agents astatine the extremity of it, lone constabulary officers who apprehension those who cross.

But it has go known arsenic an accessible spot to participate Canada from the US successful bid to assertion asylum.

Last twelvemonth marked the highest influx of migrants into Canada via that pathway - with thousands lured by the country's estimation for helping those fleeing warfare and conflict.

The influx has led to increasing vexation connected some sides of the borderline astir the path, expanding concerns astir its safety, and questions astir what the aboriginal holds for those who marque the journey.

Roxham Road roseate to nationalist attraction successful 2017 erstwhile migrants, fleeing displacement and conflict, began crossing determination successful ample numbers.

Some pinned its abrupt popularity to fears of deportation from the US nether the Trump administration, others to a tweet by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that read: "To those fleeing persecution, panic & war, Canadians volition invited you".

The influx caught Canadian officials disconnected guard. Montreal's Olympic Stadium was concisely converted into lodging for newly-arriving migrants. The national authorities tried to stem the tide with warnings that accomplishment successful Canada was not an automatic summons to stay.

The Covid-19 pandemic closed the way nether exigency wellness measures enacted by the national authorities but request for a harmless haven ne'er dissipated.

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Watch: Migrants crook themselves implicit to constabulary astatine the border

Thousands of asylum seekers came again erstwhile those measures were lifted immoderate 16 months ago.

Many travel from Haiti, a state rocked successful caller months by governmental and pack violence. There has besides been a surge of radical arriving from Latin American countries similar Venezuela and Colombia, oregon from arsenic acold distant arsenic Afghanistan, each dealing with their ain home turmoil.

At the aforesaid time, the Biden medication has extended immoderate Trump-era pandemic policies similar Title 42, which has been utilized to artifact onshore introduction astatine the US-Mexico borderline for immoderate migrants.

Migrants who spoke to the BBC successful Quebec said they progressively presumption the US arsenic not a viable state for refuge, wherever asylum claims tin often instrumentality years earlier they are heard, and wherever they consciousness they are not welcomed.

Joshua arrived successful Montreal 2 days aft Christmas and present shares a rented level with different migrants arsenic helium awaits for his assertion to beryllium heard.

A autochthonal Venezuelan, helium had been surviving successful exile successful Chile for 5 years without question documents erstwhile helium decided to marque the trek up to Canada, helium told the BBC.

"Other countries, they're not truthful affable with irregular immigrants," said Joshua, whose sanction has been changed to support his individuality arsenic idiosyncratic fleeing governmental persecution.

But Canada, helium said, has welcomed him.

Behind the influx is simply a astir two-decade aged statement with the US - the Safe Third Country Agreement - which requires migrants to record for asylum successful the archetypal 'safe' state they measurement ft in.

A migrant coming from the US would beryllium turned distant astatine a Canadian borderline constituent but Roxham Road, an unofficial path, is simply a loophole.

Mr Trudeau has dismissed calls to adjacent the crossing, suggesting it would beryllium futile fixed the thousands of kilometers of undefended borderline with the US and that migrants would dangerously effort to transverse elsewhere.

He has focused alternatively connected renegotiating the statement - an contented helium is expected to rise with Joe Biden erstwhile the president visits Ottawa aboriginal this week.

But the premier curate is facing unit to instrumentality enactment arsenic the caller arrivals strain societal services, particularly successful Quebec, wherever galore of the migrants settle.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has called the concern successful the state untenable, saying services person been "pushed to the brink" and that immoderate migrants are facing homelessness arsenic a result.

"It is becoming progressively hard to person asylum seekers with dignity," helium said successful February.

Migrants besides look a increasing backlog of exile claims, which grew from 56,300 successful January to astir 71,000 by December - a 26% increase. Claims tin present instrumentality up to 2 years to process. Around 28% of each claims were rejected past year, meaning occurrence is not guaranteed.

There are besides lengthy waits for enactment permits.

It utilized to instrumentality a week to get a societal security fig for a caller asylum seeker. Now, the hold for an assignment for the ID papers is astir 2 years, said Maryse Poisson, who works astatine the Welcome Centre, an organisation assisting newcomers successful Montreal.

Image source, Eloise Alanna/BBC

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Joshua, a migrant from Venezuela, whitethorn not get his Canadian enactment licence until 2024 owed to backlogs

Many migrants person struggled to marque ends conscionable arsenic a result, and immoderate person resorted to accessing nutrient banks and different societal supports arsenic they wait, advocates told the BBC.

"Some of them are successful a concern wherever they person to judge enactment nether the table," said Suzanne Taffot, an migration lawyer based successful Montreal who helps asylum seekers with their claims.

Ms Poisson said she fears immoderate of them are falling done the cracks without further authorities support.

"We're truly disquieted that the astir vulnerable, those that person trauma, those that person a batch of barriers of language, don't get the assistance they request astatine all," she said.

US borderline agents person noted an uptick of radical crossing backmost from Canada. In January, US Border Patrol apprehended 367 radical attempting to transverse northbound to southbound - much than the fig of specified crossings successful the past 12 years combined.

Republican lawmakers person since spoken retired astir a "crisis" brewing astatine the bluish border.

Some of those who transverse backmost person done truthful from vexation with being incapable to find enactment successful Canada, oregon to reunite with family, radical who enactment with asylum seekers successful Montreal said.

Image source, Eloise Alanna/BBC

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Tyler Tambini is 1 of a fistful of upstate New York Taxi drivers who transport migrants up to Roxham Road, sometimes for free

Despite the increasing challenges successful Canada, migrants proceed to transverse Roxham Road successful grounds numbers, undeterred adjacent successful the midst of the bitter Canadian winter.

On the New York broadside of the crossing, taxi drivers Terry Provost and Tyler Tambini said they often thrust radical to the borderline from the Plattsburgh autobus presumption - sometimes for escaped arsenic immoderate migrants tally retired of wealth towards the extremity of their journey.

"This feline had nary money. He's been waiting and waiting astatine a motel," said Mr Provost arsenic helium dropped disconnected an asylum seeker from Afghanistan.

Once the migrants cross, they are greeted by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who pass them that they volition beryllium placed nether apprehension if they measurement forward.

Once a ditch with immoderate brushwood and trees, since 2017 the Canadian broadside of the borderline has turned into a tiny constabulary compound, implicit with trailers to process those who transverse and buses that hold to bring the newcomers to hotels nearby.

Mr Provost said helium sees radical hesitate earlier they marque the last step, unsure of what awaits them connected the different side.

But for migrants similar Joshua, Canada is the past harmless spot connected the line.

"The American imagination died galore years ago," helium told the BBC. "Montreal is my caller home. The lone location I have."

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