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The portrait of asylum seekers has changed a lot

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar25,2024

The portrait of asylum seekers has changed a lot

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Since March 25, 2023, a new Canadian-American agreement regulates irregular entries, such as at Roxham Road.

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On March 25, 2023, the new Canadian-American agreement on the closure of irregular crossings such as Roxham Road came into force. Since then, the portrait of asylum seekers has changed significantly, as have their means of entering the country. Surprisingly, their numbers continued to grow.

For the past year, it has been dead calm at the Roxham Road entry point. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) even dismantled the outpost they had set up to manage the flow of people illegally crossing the border on foot.

Since the expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement last year, anyone crossing the Canada-U.S. border, anywhere, risks being returned to the United States unless to be a minor and alone, or to have family residing in Canada. This had the effect of changing the portrait of asylum seekers.

I don't see families crossing the border like before. It's a little worrying to think that these people, who are often the most vulnerable, are no longer able to request protection from Canada, deplores Stéphanie Valois, lawyer and co-president of the Association québécoise des lawyers and immigration lawyers.

Closure of Roxham Road

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< h3 class="!font-display text-5 leading-5 xsToSm:text-4 font-bold">Closure of Roxham Road

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The way to enter the country has also changed. While the number of asylum seekers arriving by air in February 2023 was 1,490, more than 5,300 asylum seekers passed through the airport last February.

As of February 2023, only ten asylum requests were made to Canada via a maritime port of entry. They came entirely from New Brunswick, according to the IRCC.

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Land entry points have lost popularity in favor of air entry points.

In 2023, the majority of 29,455 land entries into Canada took place in Quebec.

Geography being what it is, it is easier to cross by land in Quebec, explains Stéphanie Valois. However, some people will prefer to move to a province where they can live and work in English, a language they are more familiar with.

In a way, Roxham Road favored a certain organization: taking fingerprints, copies of passports, checking criminal records, etc., says lawyer Stéphanie Valois.

Louis-Philippe Jannard, coordinator of the Protection component of the Table de concertation des organizations serving refugees and immigrants, agrees.

< p class="Text-sc-2357a233-1 fnWfaZ">The advantage of the informal arrangement at Roxham Road was that there was some control over who arrived. Now, since these are entries little detected by the authorities, it is difficult to have exact figures.

A quote from Louis-Philippe Jannard, coordinator of the Protection component of the Table de concertation des organizations serving refugees and immigrants

People who arrive through air ports of entry are mainly people who enter Canada on a tourist or student visa. They then request asylum internally, at least two weeks later, as provided by law.

Contrary to what was required before June 24, 2023, the asylum seeker must not declare themselves to the Canadian authorities and submit their asylum application before the 15th day. He will have to prove that he stayed in Canada for at least two weeks before submitting his application, explains Stéphanie Valois.

Some people wait a month or two before submitting an asylum application to be sure that it is deemed admissible, she continues.

These people do not necessarily dare to seek help from organizations, or other services such as food banks, so this places them in a very precarious situation.

A quote from Louis-Philippe Jannard, coordinator of the Protection section of the Table de concertation des organizations serving refugees and immigrants

As a result, resources for the homeless are welcoming many more migrants than before, as is the case for the Old Brewery mission in Montreal, which is welcoming twice as many migrants as usual.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Accommodation services on arrival offered by the Quebec government via the Regional Reception and Integration Program for Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA) and the federal government, which accommodates several thousand people in Montreal and the surrounding area, are not available for people who apply for asylum internally, explains Louis-Philippe Jannard.

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Shelters for people experiencing homelessness are not designed to accommodate migrants, which poses great challenges for people who apply asylum. (File photo)

We do not have all the elements at the psychosocial level to adequately support the person in their traumas, notes the director of services at the Saint-Laurent Campus at the Old Brewery Mission, Émilie Fortier, adding that linguistic issues pose a problem.< /p>

We had translation issues. There are people who speak neither French nor English, so it's a little more difficult to communicate and offer adapted services, she adds.

She also confirms that she no longer sees as many families as in the past.

We have had a very large increase in young men under 35, without families. We're talking about double if we compare over one year.

A quote from Émilie Fortier, director of services at the Saint-Laurent Campus at the Old Brewery Mission

The closure of Roxham Road did not slow down the arrival of asylum seekers: their numbers actually exploded (New window) last year.

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The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processed 52,055 more asylum applications in 2023, compared to the previous year.

The Border Services Agency and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada processed a record number of 143,785 asylum applications in 2023, including more than 65,500 in Quebec.

With information from Elyse Allard

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my natasha@thetimeshub.in 1-800-268-7116

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