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US and Canada reach deal to reject asylum seekers

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Image source, Reuters

The US and Canada have reached a deal to reject asylum seekers at unofficial border crossings, officials say.

Large numbers of migrants have been making unsanctioned crossings via Roxham Road at the US-Canada border.

The move closes a loophole created by a 2004 asylum agreement with the US on where migrants have to make their asylum claims.

It allowed Canada to turn migrants away at official points of entry but not at unofficial crossing points.


As part of the deal, Canada will now also create a new refugee programme for 15,000 migrants fleeing persecution and violence in South and Central America.

The new deal extends the asylum agreement along the entire 9,000km (6,000 mile) border and is to go into effect at midnight on Friday local time, Reuters reported.

President Biden is in Ottawa, Canada, for 24 hours to discuss a series of economic, trade and immigration issues with his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau.

In his address to parliament on Friday, Mr Biden said the “United States and Canada will work together to discourage unlawful border crossings and fully implement the updated Safe Third Country Agreement”.

The president also spoke of the importance of the deep economic ties and the defence alliances between the two nations.

He announced a new “global coalition” on the opioid crisis that will be led by the US and Canada. It will look to tackle the issue of drug trafficking not only in North America, but across the world.

Security is heavy in Canada’s national capital for the presidential visit. Police cruisers and officers can be seen circling the area around parliament, and nearby streets have been closed to the public.

American flags are flying along Wellington, the street that runs in front of the parliament buildings.

Details of the migration accord are scheduled to be formally announced before Mr Biden returns to the US on Friday evening.

The US side has also seen a rise in migrant crossings into Canada. The agreement is expected to allow officials on both sides of the border to turn back asylum seekers heading in either direction.

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The move is part of efforts to limit an influx of migrants at Roxham Road, an unofficial crossing between New York state and the province of Quebec.

The deal is an amendment to the two sides’ 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which requires migrants to make an asylum claim in the first “safe” country they reach, whether it is the US or Canada.

The STCA allows US and Canadian officials to turn away asylum claimants in both directions at formal ports of entry, but does not apply to unofficial crossings.

That led to many migrants trying to enter Canada at places where there is no official border crossing. The new arrangement would close that loophole.

The deal is “not going to stop people”, Abdulla Daoud, executive director at The Refugee Centre in Montreal, told the BBC on Friday, adding he is concerned it could “incentivise human smuggling”.

Speaking about the new refugee programme, he said: “The numbers are too low. We had 40,000 cross just in the past year – 15,000 is a low number and just from one part of the world, the western hemisphere.”

New York City authorities last month said they were providing free bus tickets for migrants to travel up towards the US border with Canada.

Migrants cross at Roxham Road

Image source, Getty Images

Mr Biden’s administration has also proposed to crack down on asylum seekers at the US southern border with Mexico by making it harder for migrants to claim asylum once Covid border controls lift in May. The proposal has met backlash from human rights groups.

Mr Trudeau has argued the only way to halt irregular border crossings at Roxham Road is by renegotiating the STCA.

With additional reporting from Eloise Alana in Montreal

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