Closing Roxham Road border crossing will not stop arrival of asylum seekers: Trudeau 

For the record:

Closing an unofficial border crossing in southern Quebec will not slow the arrival of asylum seekers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

“If we close Roxham Road, people will cross elsewhere,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “We have an enormous border, and we’re not going to start arming or putting fences on it.”

On Wednesday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault called for Trudeau to close the makeshift crossing south of Montreal, saying that the province doesn’t have the capacity to care for migrants as they wait for their refugee claims to be processed.

Trudeau said intercepting irregular migrants at Roxham Road, where an RCMP post has been set up, allows Canadian authorities to conduct security verifications and to ensure that migrants are not “lost and illegal inside Canada.”

Negotiations are ongoing with the United States, Trudeau said, to change the Safe Third Country Agreement, which has led to the irregular crossings.

Under that agreement, which has been in place since 2004, asylum seekers who enter the U.S. must claim refugee status there and can be turned back if they attempt to enter Canada through an official border crossing to make a refugee claim. However, asylum seekers who cross the border irregularly can make a refugee claim once they are in Canada.

Discussions with the U.S. to change the agreement are “advancing well,” Trudeau said, but he added that the subject is delicate for the Americans, because they are worried about the impact any changes could have on the country’s border with Mexico.

The RCMP have intercepted 7,013 asylum seekers who have crossed irregularly into Quebec from the United States since the beginning of the year, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. In 2019, more than 16,000 asylum seekers were intercepted by the RCMP after crossing irregularly into Quebec.

Source: Closing Roxham Road border crossing will not stop arrival of asylum seekers: Trudeau 

Le conflit Québec-Ottawa au sujet du chemin Roxham se poursuit

Not surprising. More comprehensive article than in English press:

Justin Trudeau n’a pas mordu, mercredi, aux demandes renouvelées de Québec, qui réclame la fermeture du passage frontalier du chemin Roxham. La situation est pourtant insoutenable, selon le gouvernement de François Legault.

Québec prévoit qu’au rythme actuel, plus de 35 000 demandeurs d’asile se présenteront à ce point de la frontière canado-américaine cette année. C’est beaucoup trop, soutient le gouvernement Legault, qui a appelé mercredi le fédéral, pour une deuxième fois en moins de cinq mois, à « arrêter ce flux quotidien ».

« On veut que [les passages] se fassent de manière ordonnée, régulière et légale. On est rendus à un stade où on excède nos capacités », a indiqué le ministre québécois de l’Immigration, Jean Boulet, à l’Assemblée nationale.

L’élu de la CAQ évalue la capacité d’hébergement du Québec à 1150 demandeurs. « On y est, ou à peu près », a-t-il dit en mêlée de presse. Et, avec l’été, le gouvernement Legault ne s’attend pas à voir le flux de migrants diminuer. « Il y a une augmentation actuellement », a souligné le premier ministre mercredi.

« [Roxham], c’est une passoire ; c’est reconnu à l’échelle internationale, a déploré le ministre Boulet. Ça ne peut pas continuer comme ça. »

Nouvel accord en immigration ?

À Ottawa, le gouvernement de Justin Trudeau n’a pas voulu s’engager, mercredi, à barrer la route aux migrants qui se présentent au sud de la Montérégie.

Il assure que les négociations avec les États-Unis en vue de la signature d’une nouvelle entente en immigration vont bon train. « Je sais qu’il y a des progrès avec les ressources qu’on a mises sur ce point [de passage] particulier à la frontière », a précisé en point de presse le ministre fédéral de la Sécurité publique et ex-ministre de l’Immigration, Marco Mendicino. Il assure que le chemin Roxham est « un dossier qui est très important » pour son gouvernement, et dit qu’il « collabore toujours avec le gouvernement Legault ».

Son collègue de l’Immigration, Sean Fraser, a répété que le gouvernement devait « respecter les droits des demandeurs d’asile » et suivre « des normes légales » quant à leur accueil.

En chœur, les quatre principaux partis à l’Assemblée nationale ont exigé qu’Ottawa revoie l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs, l’accord qui régit la traversée des demandeurs d’asile au Canada.

Entré en vigueur en 2004, le pacte autorise le Canada, dans les faits, à refuser toute demande d’asile effectuée à un poste officiel à la frontière canado-américaine sous prétexte que les États-Unis sont un pays « sûr ». Ne pouvant donc pas passer par les postes douaniers qui parsèment la plus longue frontière terrestre du monde, les migrants ont historiquement été refoulés vers des points de passage irrégulier comme celui du chemin Roxham, ce qui concentre donc leur arrivée au Québec.

Jean Boulet veut voir le gouvernement fédéral à la table de négociation avec les États-Unis au plus vite afin qu’ils revoient cette entente. Or, jusqu’ici, Ottawa s’est traîné les pieds, a-t-il avancé mercredi. « Cette entente-là, ou on la met de côté, ou on la redéfinit, ou on la modernise. Et à cet égard-là, Ottawa a énormément de travail à faire », a-t-il affirmé.

Des appuis à la position caquiste

En exigeant la fin des demandes d’asile au chemin Roxham, la CAQ rejoint les arguments du Parti québécois (PQ), qui insiste depuis le début de la semaine pour que soit réglée la situation dans ce coin de la Montérégie. « Qu’on encourage les passages illégaux seulement au Québec et que ça atteigne des dizaines et des dizaines de milliers d’entrées par année, c’est de faire porter au Québec un fardeau administratif […] qui n’a aucune logique », a clamé le chef péquiste, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, en matinée.

Le Bloc québécois a entrepris de transposer les demandes du gouvernement québécois à Ottawa. Le parti d’Yves-François Blanchet a déposé une motion devant le Parlement, mercredi, pour demander au gouvernement qu’il suspende cette entente avec les États-Unis « et qu’elle réclame le passage des migrants par les voies régulières partout au Canada et, conséquemment, la fermeture du chemin Roxham ».

La motion a été battue, faute d’obtenir l’unanimité.

« La capacité d’accueil responsable de l’État québécois a des limites dont il faut tenir compte — sauf si on veut, en effet, faire déborder la capacité québécoise en [matière] d’accueil, d’intégration et de francisation », a expliqué le chef bloquiste, Yves-François Blanchet.

Le Parti conservateur du Canada a aussicritiqué l’approche du gouvernement libéral, jugée trop laxiste. « Si nous voulons limiter l’arrivée de toutes ces drogues et armes illégales, nous avons besoin d’investir plus dans nos points d’entrée et de sécuriser le chemin Roxham », a déclaré la députée conservatrice manitobaine Raquel Dancho.

Des bémols

Pour le Parti libéral du Québec, la position défendue par le gouvernement caquiste, le PQ et le Bloc a quelque chose d’« inhumain ». « La moindre des choses, ici, c’est à mon avis de démontrer une certaine humanité face à des personnes qui sont démunies », a soutenu le député libéral Carlos Leitão.

Québec solidaire craint pour sa part qu’une fermeture unilatérale du chemin Roxham ne fasse que mettre en danger les quelques dizaines de milliers de demandeurs d’asile qui se présenteront à la frontière québécoise cette année. « Ça [déplace] le problème vers des endroits inconnus, ça [fera] encore davantage de demandeurs d’asile qui vont traverser n’importe où, sans aucun contrôle », a signalé le porte-parole du parti en matière d’immigration, Andrés Fontecilla.

Québec n’en est pas à sa première sortie pour demander la fermeture de ce passage frontalier. En décembre, le ministre Boulet était passé par Twitter pour dénoncer la menace que poseraient les arrivées par ce point sur le système de santé québécois. L’élu s’était partiellement rétracté dans les jours suivants, et avait admis que « la qualité humaine » de son message n’était « pas optimale ».

Plus de 10 600 demandeurs d’asile se sont présentés au chemin Roxham depuis le début de l’année, selon les données du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration.

Source: Le conflit Québec-Ottawa au sujet du chemin Roxham se poursuit

Globe article:

Quebec is asking the federal government to close a popular, unofficial border crossing south of Montreal because the province can’t handle the number of asylum seekers entering the country, but refugee advocates are rejecting Quebec’s claims.

More than 100 refugee claimants are entering Quebec every day from the United States through a rural path called Roxham Road, Premier François Legault told reporters Wednesday.

“It’s unacceptable,” Legault said at the legislature. “It’s impossible because we don’t have the capacity.”

The federal government takes 14 months to study an asylum claim and in the meantime, Quebec has to house and care for would-be refugees and school their children, the premier said.

“We cannot afford to give services,” Legault said, adding that if the current pace continues, Quebec will not have adequate housing for 36,000 new arrivals.

Refugee advocates, however, say they don’t accept the premier’s claim.

“What is Quebec’s capacity for compassion? For justice? It’s maybe not unlimited, but the capacity is there,” Paul Clarke, interim executive director of Action Réfugiés Montréal, said Wednesday in an interview.

Clarke, whose group sponsors and offers services to refugees, said that while it can be difficult for asylum seekers to find shelter in Montreal, he doesn’t think the situation is any better in other Canadian cities.

Quebec needs people, advocate says

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said that during the pandemic, many people who had crossed the border at Roxham Road found work in Quebec’s long-term care homes.

“We not only have the capacity, but we also have the need, in fact, for more people,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Part of the problem, she said, is the length of time it takes the federal government to issue work permits to asylum seekers.

“The federal government could alleviate things tremendously simply by giving work permits shortly after people arrive, so that they can get to work, and there are many jobs that they could very usefully fill,” Dench said.

The irregular border crossing at Roxham Road reopened in November after it was closed during the pandemic. Since the beginning of the year, the RCMP have intercepted 7,013 asylum seekers who have crossed irregularly into Quebec from the U.S. That number is up from 4,246 last year.

In 2019, more than 16,000 asylum seekers were intercepted by the RCMP after crossing irregularly into Quebec.

Legault said many of those who cross irregularly are ultimately not able to stay in Canada.

“You have to understand, the problem is that many of these people are not really refugees,” the premier said. “A refugee is someone who is physically at risk in their country. But the majority are not refugees; eventually, when the file is analyzed, they are refused, returned back home.”

Clarke said it’s not possible to determine which refugee claimants will be successful. “To say half of these people aren’t going to make it, well, which half, Mr. Legault?

“If he’s saying that, then he is acknowledging that people are coming to Canada and they do need protection. So how do you figure out which half?”

Under the 2004 Canada–United States Safe Third Country Agreement, refugee claimants who enter Canada outside an official port of entry must be processed in Canada and cannot be immediately returned to the U.S. Claimants who come through official entry points of entry, however, are sent back to the U.S.

Dench said closing the Roxham Road entry point would merely push people to cross at other points of entry — which would make it more difficult for the federal government to process asylum seekers.

“The reason they’re concentrated in Quebec is simply a matter of geography, because there is a large land border between the U.S. and Canada that people can cross over,” Dench said.

Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters Tuesday that a balance needs to be found.

“Resources have been provided for that particular issue at the border,” he said. “We are also in discussions with the U.S. to regulate the movements of any asylum seekers. This is part of the strategy in order to both defend the rights of refugees while at the same time protecting Quebec citizens.”

Source: Quebec asks feds to close Roxham Road, says province can’t handle influx of refugees

Falconer and Damian Smith: Asylum-seeker smuggling is a symptom, not a root cause

Good arguments in favour of a managed approach to asylum seekers (as Canada largely has with even Roxham Road given how the government processes claims). On the other hand, just as “cracking down” incentivises more crossings between official points of entry, so does having “unofficial” points of entry like Roxham Road, with the important and real difference that they are known and identified, and have to go through the official process.

So the hard part is ensuring a quick, efficient and fair efficient determination process that is subject to enforcement, without the endless appeal processes that undermine confidence among Canadians:

Earlier this month, the Patels – a family of four from India – died of cold exposure trying to walk south through the Canada-U.S. border, near Emerson, Man.

But rather than look at how policies incentivize such irregular migration and produce such tragedies, Canadian politicians and news media have been quick to parrot rhetoric from other rich countries, speculating about the responsibility of criminal smugglers and wider networks of nefarious actors. “It is so tragic to see a family perish like this, victims of human traffickers, misinformation and people who have taken advantage of their desire to build a better world,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Just three months earlier, the U.K.’s Interior Minister blamed smugglers for the death of 31 peoplewhen a boat capsized in the English Channel, and vowed to pass laws to make it illegal to claim asylum. And the U.S., which for decades has forced irregular migrants to make deadly desert crossings, has criminalized humanitarian groups as smugglers.

But while the Florida man arrested in the Patels’ case allegedly sought to profit from their desperation, he did not cause it.

What the political rhetoric around irregular migration misses is that human smuggling is a symptom of the friction between the desire to migrate or find protection, and the absence of safe and legal pathways to do so. Prohibition in the face of high demand only fosters illicit markets, and “cracking down” on small-time criminals addresses symptoms, not the causes.

The number of U.S. green cards offered every year has been capped at 675,000 since 1991, resulting in an average wait time of 7.5 years for eligible immigrants. But it varies by country; for an Indian professional, wait times to enter the U.S. can reach up to 50 years. Roughly 14 per cent of potential applicants will die of old age before receiving a green card.

The U.S. has taken an even more restrictive approach to asylum. The Biden administration has continued a series of Trump era policies to expel asylum seekers without a hearing, or force them to remain in Mexico until it is heard. That led the backlog to surpass 1.6 million last December, pushing wait times to more than five years.

While Canadian immigration quotas are larger per capita – 421,000 for 2022 – the federal government has taken a similar approach to asylum. The majority of asylum seekers are recognized as refugees; they differ from resettled refugees, such as those from Afghanistan and Syria, only by the manner in which they arrived. Nevertheless, they are often unfairly assailed as “queue jumpers” or “bogus refugees,” or accused of “asylum shopping.” These accusations miss the entire point of why people migrate.

Since 2004, Canada and the U.S. have returned asylum seekers to each other under a Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which applies only to official ports of entry, leading to what is often called a “loophole” in the agreement. In fact, governmental discussions in 2001 recognized that sealing the border would mean more smuggling and a larger undocumented population.

Many asylum seekers have crossed between border points to avoid being returned to the U.S., where they would likely face imprisonment and deportation. The route the Patels were using developed precisely because the STCA incentivized irregular crossings.

In 2017, Canada established an informal humanitarian corridor at Roxham Road, but from March, 2020, to November 2021, it turned back almost every asylum seeker on public health grounds. Inland claims increased significantly. Most will be from people on visas, but many have been forced to bypass new restrictions through clandestine crossings.

Canada has stated that it is now in the process of “modernizing” the STCA. While details are murky, it will likely mean expanding measures to turn back asylum seekers. This is particularly troubling with the Supreme Court of Canada set to rule on the agreement’s constitutionality.

Because a reformed STCA would limit asylum access, rather than affect demand, there will only be more clandestine journeys, more organized smuggling and more dangerous modes of border crossings. Enforcing an expanded STCA will also require massive expenditures to surveil and police the border, resulting in more incarceration, a larger undocumented population, and corruption among border guards. Securitization is a self-fulfilling policy.

Canada is at a crossroads. It can choose hard line policies to the benefit of the Canadian security establishment and create more smugglers, even as its politicians heap blame on them when tragedy strikes. Or it can choose to manage the border by investing in a timelier, fairer asylum system and rethinking how it responds to demand for migration.

Robert Falconer is a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. Craig Damian Smith is a senior research associate at the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration & Integration program at Ryerson University.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-asylum-seeker-smuggling-is-a-symptom-not-a-root-cause/

More migrants seek asylum through reopened Canadian border

Highest level ever since 2017. Will likely become political issue again:

Whenever a bus arrives at the Greyhound station in Plattsburgh, New York, a small band of taxi drivers waits to drive passengers on a half-hour trip to a snowy, dead-end dirt road.

There, at the border with Canada, refugees pile out of taxis or vans several times a day, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers warn that they will be arrested for illegal entry if they cross, which they do. Most are soon released to pursue asylum, living and working freely while awaiting a decision.

“We have the hopes of everyone — be successful and have a change of life,” Alejandro Cortez, a 25-year-old Colombian man, said as he exited a taxi last week at the end of Roxham Road in Champlain, New York. The town of about 6,000 is directly across the border from Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.

Cortez joins a renewed stream of migrants seeking refuge in Canada after a 20-month ban on asylum requests designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Families are once again lugging suitcases and carrying children across a remote, snow-covered ditch to the border.

Canada’s decision to lift the ban on Nov. 21 stands in marked contrast to the approach in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended indefinitely a similar restriction on the border with Mexico that will enter its third year in March.

On Wednesday, a Justice Department attorney vigorously defended the ban against sharp questioning from federal appeals court judges about the scientific basis for such a far-reaching move against asylum.

The U.S. expelled migrants nearly 1.5 million times from March 2020 through November under what is known as Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law that the Trump and Biden administrations have used to deny migrants a chance to seek asylum on grounds that it will curb the spread of the coronavirus. That accounts for about two of three arrests or expulsions at the border, most involving single adults and some families. Unaccompanied children have been exempt under President Joe Biden.

Fully vaccinated travelers have been able to enter the U.S. and Canada since November, but Canada went a step farther by reinstating a path to asylum.

Cortez arrived in the United States on a tourist visa five months ago. He said he couldn’t go back to Colombia because of violence and the disappearance of thousands of young men.

“All of that hurts a lot,” he said. “We have to run from our country.”

Asylum-seekers on the Canadian border began appearing at Roxham Road around the time Trump became president. How it became the favored place to cross into Canada isn’t clear, but the migrants are taking advantage of a quirk in a 2002 agreement between the U.S. and Canada that says people seeking asylum must apply in the first country they arrive in.

Migrants who go to an official crossing — like the one where Interstate 87 ends just east of Roxham Road — are returned to the United States and told to apply there. But those who arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry, like Roxham Road, are allowed to stay and request protection.

Nearly 60,000 people sought asylum after illegally crossing the border into Canada from February 2017 through September, many at Roxham Road, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Montreal, Canadian government statistics show.

Of those, more than 45,000 claims have been finalized, with almost 24,300 approved, or almost 54%. Another 17,000 claims were rejected while over 14,000 are still pending. Other claims were abandoned or withdrawn.

In December, the number of asylum-seekers at the border in Quebec jumped to nearly 2,800. That’s up from 832 in November and 96 in October, according to the statistics.

Canada lifted the asylum ban with little fanfare or public backlash, perhaps because the numbers are small compared with people crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

Biden’s decision to keep the Trump-era ban in place has come under scathing criticism from the United Nations refugee agency, legal scholars and advocates.

Under the ban, people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, are bounced back to Mexico before being afforded rights under U.S. and international law to seek asylum. People from other countries are flown home without a chance at asylum.

Scientific arguments for Title 42 have met with skepticism from the start.

The Associated Press reported in 2020 that Vice President Mike Pence called CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in March of that year and told him to use the agency’s special legal authority to slash the number of asylum-seekers allowed into the country.

Pence made the request after a top agency doctor who oversees such orders refused to comply with the directive, saying there was no valid public health reason to issue it.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the second-highest CDC official when she departed in May, told a congressional panel last year that “the bulk of the evidence at that time did not support this policy proposal.”

On Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Sharon Swingle insisted the ban is based on scientific expertise and prevents disease at crowded Border Patrol holding facilities. Facing persistent questioning from judges on a three-member panel in Washington, she acknowledged there were no affidavits in court records to explain the order’s scientific foundation.

Within hours of the November change by the Canadian government, immigrants started arriving in large numbers at Roxham Road, said Janet McFetridge, of Plattsburg Cares, a group that provides hats, mittens and scarves to people crossing the border in the dead of winter. She said people are eager to cross while they can.

“There definitely is a fear that it’s going to close suddenly,” she said while waiting on Roxham Road for the next group of migrants.

A Canadian officer said in French to a woman and her traveling companion, who was carrying a baby, that it was illegal to enter Canada there.

“If you cross here, you will be arrested,” he said.

“Yes, it’s not a problem. It’s not a problem,” the woman said as her companion started to pull a suitcase across the border.

Source: More migrants seek asylum through reopened Canadian border

Tories break ranks on immigration to demand safe routes to UK for asylum seekers

Potentially significant:

Senior Tories have demanded a radical overhaul of the asylum system to allow migrants to claim refuge at UK embassies anywhere in the world – rather than having to travel to the UK – in a bid to cut the numbers attempting dangerous Channel crossings.

Ex-cabinet members David Davis and Andrew Mitchell are among those calling for the change, which marks a stark challenge to the punitive approach taken by Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, who are demanding tighter controls on French beaches and are threatening to “push back” small boats at sea.

Mr Davis, the former shadow home secretary and Brexit secretary, and Mr Mitchell, the former international development secretary, also poured scorn on the home secretary’s plan to take on powers through her Nationality and Borders Bill to send migrants arriving in the UK to camps in third countries overseas for processing – something that has already been ruled out by Albania after it was named as a potential destination.

Writing for The Independent, Pauline Latham, a Conservative member of the Commons International Development Committee, said that allowing migrants to claim asylum at embassies abroad was “the only viable alternative to the tragedy of deaths in the Channel and the chaos of our current approach”.

Twenty-seven migrants, including three children and a pregnant woman, drowned off the coast of France in November when their boat sank, marking the single biggest loss of life of the crisis so far.

The Home Office is opposing an opposition amendment to the borders bill, due for debate in the House of Commons this week, which would allow migrants to seek “humanitarian visas” in France, allowing them to be transported safely across the Channel to claim asylum.

Source: Tories break ranks on immigration to demand safe routes to UK for asylum seekers

À quoi peut-on s’attendre au chemin Roxham? 

Quebec advocate perspective. Will be interesting to see how fast and how far numbers climb:

Entre 2017 et 2019, 95 % des personnes ayant présenté une demande d’asile à la frontière terrestre canadienne l’ont fait au Québec, et pratiquement toutes au chemin Roxham, où l’on ne trouve aucun poste frontalier officiel. Près de 18 mois après l’avoir interdit en raison de la pandémie, le gouvernement fédéral permet, depuis dimanche dernier, aux personnes qui traversent la frontière entre les postes frontaliers de déposer une demande d’asile. À quoi peut-on s’attendre à la suite de cette réouverture ?

Pour répondre à cette question, il faut retourner aux années prépandémie. La transformation du chemin Roxham en point névralgique de cette frontière n’est pas une coïncidence : elle découle de plusieurs décennies de politiques migratoires qui visent à empêcher l’arrivée spontanée de demandeurs d’asile. Répondant à une anxiété liée au fonctionnement du système fédéral d’asile dans les années 1990, ces politiques ont pris une tournure antiterroriste à la suite des attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Cette année-là, le Canada et les États-Unis se sont mis d’accord sur la Déclaration pour une frontière intelligente, dont fait partie l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs (ETPS). Mise en place en 2004, l’ETPS permet de renvoyer la majorité des demandeurs d’asile qui se présentent à la frontière canado-américaine vers les États-Unis.

Cette entente est à l’origine de ce que l’on a appelé la « crise migratoire » du chemin Roxham. En effet, parmi les exceptions qu’elle prévoit, l’ETPS ne s’applique pas aux personnes qui traversent la frontière à un endroit autre qu’un point d’entrée. En raison de sa situation géographique et à la faveur de la conjoncture politique, le chemin Roxham s’est imposé en tant que principal point d’entrée non officiel au Canada. Si les premières arrivées se sont déroulées de manière chaotique, les autorités ont par la suite mis en place certains dispositifs permettant d’accueillir ces personnes de façon ordonnée. Néanmoins, cet arrangement temporaire a permis aux autorités canadiennes d’exercer une surveillance sur les arrivées irrégulières, de garder un certain contrôle sur ces personnes et, ultimement, d’examiner leurs demandes de façon à respecter les droits des demandeurs d’asile ainsi que la législation canadienne.

Durant les premières semaines de la pandémie, le Canada a presque entièrement fermé sa frontière terrestre aux demandeurs d’asile. Alors que le gouvernement a par la suite rétabli les quelques exceptions à l’ETPS, les personnes se présentant entre les points d’entrée officiels ne pouvaient toujours pas déposer leur demande, étant renvoyées aux États-Unis dans l’attente du moment où les autorités leur permettraient de venir le faire. Bien que l’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada ait commencé à contacter ces personnes en août dernier, cette fermeture fait en sorte que de nouveaux chemins plus reculés sont maintenant empruntés. Du côté américain, des organismes d’aide aux réfugiés déplorent les conditions difficiles dans lesquelles se retrouvent les personnes qui attendent de pouvoir déposer leur demande.

La levée de cette exception annoncée dimanche aura des conséquences au chemin Roxham et ailleurs le long de la frontière terrestre. Il s’agit d’un bon moment pour considérer l’abrogation de l’ETPS et ainsi permettre aux demandeurs d’asile de se présenter directement aux postes frontaliers. Sinon, les images de 2017 risquent de revenir à la une de nos journaux : des familles entières qui se présentent de façon irrégulière au chemin Roxham, leurs valises à la main, puisque cela constitue leur unique option pour demander le statut de réfugié au Canada. Ou, pire encore, des demandeurs d’asile qui, comme ce fut le cas en 2017, périssent dans les régions rurales enneigées des Prairies à la recherche d’un passage entre deux postes frontaliers. Ce jeu du chat et de la souris entre les autorités et les demandeurs d’asile ne sert finalement personne.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/idees/649125/demandeurs-d-asile-a-quoi-peut-on-s-attendre-au-chemin-roxham?utm_source=infolettre-2021-11-23&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

Political Storm Swirls Around Britain’s Refugee Surge

Of note:

Some held their hands aloft in celebration; others simply slumped to the ground in the 24°C heat, exhausted from the ordeal they’d just endured.

That was the scene on the south coast of England this week, when at least 430 migrants — including infants too young to walk — made landfall. They had braved the 20-mile crossing from either France or Belgium, navigating the world’s busiest shipping lane aboard flimsy inflatable boats.

Meanwhile, 70 miles away in Westminster, the fate of those who’ll arrive in the months and years ahead was being aired, as UK lawmakers debated the government’s planned reform of refugee policy.

Undocumented migration is a convulsive political issue in post-Brexit Britain. Departure from Europe was sold as a chance to buttress the country’s creaking borders — yet, since the start of the year, some 8,000 people have reached British soil with the help of boat-borne smugglers. Monday’s surge represented the highest number of arrivals on record, with 2020’s total of 8,417 likely to be topped in the coming weeks.

Addressing this is the job of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, a divisive politician who’s pinned her reputation on stemming the flow of refugees.

She is the brains behind the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’ — legislation that will make it a criminal offence to enter the country without permission, with a penalty of up to four years in prison. It also raises the prospect of a new overseas detention scheme, in which asylum-seekers could be sent to a “safe third country” while their claims are considered. Thus far, no third-party nation has agreed to participate.

It would be a firm but fair system, Patel says, designed to deter vulnerable people from placing their lives in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers. Instead of crossing to the UK, asylum applications should be made wherever in Europe refugees first find themselves, the government argues.

It’s a legally dubious position. Though, under European law, migrants should have their claims processed in the jurisdiction of their arrival, the 1951 UN Refugee Convention makes clear that asylum-seekers must face no legal discrimination, and suggests that their unlawful entry to a country shouldn’t result in prosecution.

And there’s another, more human consideration that critics say must be accounted for: that no amount of securitisation will deter needy people enticed by the UK’s reputation for defending human rights, offering legal protection to those in direst need, upholding the rule of law, and celebrating — not condemning — multiculturalism .

That is why migrants have always been drawn to British shores, often in far, far greater numbers than those seen today. (Arrivals topped 100,000 per year in the early 2000s).

The difference now, partly thanks to COVID-19 shutting rail and road migration routes, is that their arrival is a more visible, maritime spectacle. Headlines are hard for politicians, but photos of foreigners wading ashore is a whole different level. Coupled with a bureaucratic meltdown at the Home Office — the number of asylum-seekers awaiting a decision has doubled since 2014 — it’s little surprise the British government is coming down hard.

The truth, however, is that the UK’s refugee situation is far less onerous than it is for its nearest neighbours. Britain ranks 17th out of 28 European countries in terms of asylum applications, with around a third of those confronting authorities in France and Germany.

Such stats obscure the human story. That every one is a person, often vulnerable and fleeing persecution or poverty, willing to risk it all for a better, brighter future.

Source: Political Storm Swirls Around Britain’s Refugee Surge

Home Office ‘acting unlawfully’ in rush to deport asylum seekers

Yet again:

Hundreds of people arriving in England in small boats are being immediately detained in immigration removal centres, raising fears of a new, secret Home Office policy to deport them without their asylum claims being properly considered.

Among the detainees are apparent trafficking and torture victims from countries including Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, who would normally be allowed asylum accommodation in the community while their claims are processed but instead are effectively imprisoned.

Children are also among those who have crossed the Channel and have been sent directly to immigration removal centres, with solicitors claiming the Home Office has classed minors as adults despite not age-assessing them in person.

Some small-boat asylum seekers have been denied access to a lawyer since early May after landing and being immediately detained in a removal centre.

Campaigners said the development was “not the act of a civilised and compassionate nation”.

The outcry follows the publication of home secretary Priti Patel’s nationality and borders bill on Tuesday. It claims to reform the asylum system but has been described by the UN as having an “almost neocolonial approach” in allowing the UK to shirk its international responsibilities to refugees.

Immigration lawyers say the apparent undisclosed policy change, which appears to have been introduced over the past two months, is unlawful and they are preparing to challenge it.

Toufique Hossain, director of public law and immigration at Duncan Lewis, described it as a potentially “grave abuse of power”.

Hossain added: “They have effectively started bypassing the asylum system and saying to individuals with strong claims that their claim is weak, that they may not get an appeal and that they intend to remove them quickly.

“The whole starting point is to disbelieve people arriving from places where the Home Office knows individuals have a well-founded fear of harm and persecution.”

The shift appears to have affected hundreds already, with Duncan Lewis receiving reports that the UK’s network of immigration removal centres is overwhelmed.

Harmondsworth removal centre near Heathrow airport – whose capacity is 670 – is understood to be “overwhelmed”. The Home Office is also filling Brook House at Gatwick airport and Colnbrook, near Heathrow – combined capacity 850 – with small boat arrivals.

“Detention centres are being filled with people who have just arrived but who are not being released into the community,” said Tom Nunn of Duncan Lewis.

He added they are aware of more than 50 Vietnamese nationals, a country which is one of the top sources for trafficking into the UK.

In addition, there is speculation that the Home Office has chartered a deportation flight to Vietnam at the end of July for small boat arrivals, although the government would not confirm this.

Nunn said the firm was aware of Iraqis and Afghans who had indicators of torture, but whom the Home Office had apparently detained in contravention of the established asylum process.

“There have been a few cases where medical advice from doctors in the immigration centre is that they are victims of torture,” said Nunn. “But we are seeing a lot of cases where the Home Office is pushing back on this, basically saying that: ‘You’re a victim of torture but we believe we can remove you quickly and therefore we’ll keep you in detention.”

Clare Moseley of charity Care4Calais said: “To detain and deport such vulnerable people in this way is not the act of a civilised and compassionate nation. If we fail to ensure that those who need our help are treated in a fair and decent manner we risk losing our reputation as a decent and honest society.”

Usually asylum seekers are placed in special accommodation while their claims are heard, a process that can often take longer than a year. Currently there is a record backlog of 109,000 cases in the system with over 79,000 being processed for more than a year.

This is not the first time that the Home Office appears to have quietly introduced measures that reduce the rights and protection of asylum seekers.

Last year the Home Office secretly shortened asylum screening interviews for arrivals in the UK, a move that meant torture and trafficking victims could be deported far more quickly.

Last week, however, the high court ruled that Patel should quickly bring back to the UK a small boat asylum seeker and Sudanese torture survivor who was removed to France.

The 38-year-old was tracked down by Liberty Investigates and the Observer in an investigation whose evidence paved the way for last week’s government defeat.

Called Omar in the investigation, he had nine of the 11 indicators of trafficking and torture yet was deported to France last August after just two months in the UK.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We assess the suitability of all new arrivals and only detain people when there is a realistic prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale, and evidence of their vulnerability is outweighed by immigration considerations.

“It is inaccurate to say unaccompanied minors are being classed as adults during age assessment interviews. The Home Office makes every effort to ensure people’s age is assessed correctly, in the interests of safeguarding and to avoid abuse of the system.”

They added that the government would “crack down on illegal entry and the criminality associated with it”.

The spokesperson said: “People should claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in and we must ensure dangerous journeys are not incentivised.”

Source: Home Office ‘acting unlawfully’ in rush to deport asylum seekers

In Australia, a New Look at Immigration: ‘It’s About Our Friends’

Another example of how the personal trumps the official narratives by highlighting inhumanity (as was the case with Alan Kurdi or the Kamloops residential school deaths):

The 3-year-old girl was born in Australia, in a tiny town called Biloela, far from the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne. But her parents were asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and living in a country that heavily discourages illegal migration, so the government sent them to a faraway island while deciding their fate.

This week the girl, Tharnicaa Murugappan, returned to mainland Australia, but not for the reason her family had hoped — she was medically evacuated to Perth, where she is now battling a blood infection in a hospital after a lengthy illness. Supporters of the family say she was given only painkillers for nearly two weeks at the remote government detention facility while her fever rose, and she now suffers from pneumonia, which led to her blood infection.

Tharnicaa and her family, often called the “Biloela family” among Australians, are the most high-profile asylum seekers in Australia. In a country that is inured to criticism from international human rights organizations over its “draconian” immigration policy, the detentions of Tharnicaa and her older sister have drawn outrage.

Tharnicaa’s illness has renewed calls for the family to be released from detention and prompted candlelight vigils and protests across Australia. Over half a million people have signed a petition demanding the family be returned to Biloela, a town of about 5,800 that is 260 miles northwest of Brisbane. Politicians from both sides have called for the family to be released from detention while maintaining support for the hard-line immigration policies that put them there. Karen Andrews, the home affairs minister, has been so inundated with calls about the case that her voicemail specifies that anyone wanting to speak to her about it should do so in writing.

The Murugappan family — mother Kokilapathmapriya Nadesalingam, father Nadesalingam Murugappan, Tharnicaa and her 6-year-old sister, Kopika — are the only people held in the Christmas Island detention center, which is 1,000 miles north of the Australian mainland. The two sisters, who both were born in Australia, are the only two children currently being held in immigration detention in Australia. Unlike the United States, Australia does not automatically grant citizenship to children born in the country, and the two girls are ineligible as the children of “unlawful maritime arrivals.”

The case is unusual in that the small rural town of Biloela, which has been leading the fight to get the family back, is a politically conservative place. But when the family was whisked away by immigration officials in 2018 after their claims for asylum were rejected and their temporary visas expired, locals weren’t thinking about politics. This case “wasn’t about politics or asylum seekers, it was about our friends,” said Simone Cameron, a Biloela local and friend of the family.

The family has been held on Christmas Island since 2019, as they fight government efforts to deport them to Sri Lanka.

Late last month, supporters of the family said, Ms. Nadesalingam and Mr. Murugappan started raising concerns with International Health and Medical Services, the private company that provides health care for the Christmas Island detention center, after Tharnicaa developed a fever on May 24. Requests for antibiotics were ignored, and the family was only given over-the-counter painkillers and a fact sheet about common flu symptoms, even as her fever increased and she started vomiting.

Tharnicaa was hospitalized on Christmas Island on June 6, according to the supporters. The next day, she was evacuated, along with her mother, to a hospital in the mainland city of Perth. She is recovering, but doctors are still trying to find the cause of the infection.

“It was the pure negligence of them not actually giving Tharnicaa antibiotics that led to her developing pneumonia,” a family friend, Angela Fredericks, said in a phone interview on Thursday. She added that the family had to “beg and fight” for Tharnicaa to be evacuated to the mainland.

In previous statements, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has defended Tharnicaa’s treatment, saying she was evacuated to Perth as soon as it was recommended. International Health and Medical Services did not respond to requests for comment.

Japan’s proposed immigration law revisions deal fresh blow to refugees

Of note:

While Japan accepts very few refugee applications annually, legal changes designed to crack down on what the government says are abuses of the asylum process are expected to make it even harder for genuine refugees to find shelter in the country.

Japan has been criticized by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for accepting only around 1 percent of applications it receives. In 2020, it certified just 47 people as refugees out of the 3,936 applications lodged.

Moradi, an Iranian who fled to Japan in 2007 and declined to give his full name, was granted refugee status last year after winning a case at the Tokyo High Court to conclude a 13-year legal struggle. He filed a total of three applications and two lawsuits.

“I felt like I was reborn after spending so many days just enduring. I plan to live in this country for the rest of my life,” he said through a Japanese interpreter.

The 56-year-old converted from Islam to Christianity and said he would be considered an apostate and could even face execution if he returns to Iran. Moradi now lives in Saitama Prefecture with his Iranian wife, who he later brought to Japan, and works full-time at a recycling company.

According to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, of those who were recognized as refugees by Japan between 2010 and 2018, about 9 percent, or 19 people, had applied multiple times.

But Japan’s parliament on Friday started deliberations on a bill that aims to amend the immigration law so that foreigners can be deported after they have applied for refugee status three times.

As of January 2020, there were around 82,000 foreigners illegally overstaying in Japan. Some 10,000 repatriate annually after receiving deportation orders but about 3,000 stay in the country each year, making repeated asylum applications as deportation procedures are automatically halted for people claiming refugee status.

Tomoko Uraki, a lawyer representing Moradi, said the revisions could result in the deportation of refugees who, like her client, should be protected.

“People who would be recognized as refugees in other countries are not being recognized in Japan, but that part of the law is not being revised,” she said.

Shogo Watanabe, a lawyer who specializes in helping people from Myanmar apply for refugee status, notes that none of the 2,000 Myanmarese who applied for asylum in the past three years was approved.

“It is clearly wrong to push through a provision allowing deportation after the third application before carrying out the proper practice of refugee recognition,” he said.

In a joint statement dated March 31, a group of United Nations’ experts called on the Japanese government to review its proposed revisions, saying they failed to meet international standards from the standpoint of human rights.

The bill lacks provisions specifying a maximum detention period and instead contains penalties for foreigners who refuse to return to their countries of origin, including up to one year in prison for those who physically resist while on an airplane.

Source: Japan’s proposed immigration law revisions deal fresh blow to refugees