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Asylum seekers can use Quebec’s Roxham Road crossing as pandemic ban lifted

Click to play video: 'Guardian Angels program for asylum seekers leaving spouses, family members behind' Guardian Angels program for asylum seekers leaving spouses, family members behind
Paule Robitaille, Member for Bourassa-Sauvé, is paying tribute to asylum seekers and front-line workers in her riding who have lost their battle to COVID-19. As Global's Phil carpenter explains, Robitaille says some asylum seekers' families are left to fend for themselves when a family member passes away. – Mar 16, 2021

An unofficial border crossing in rural Quebec that was used by asylum seekers to enter Canada has reopened after being closed for much of the pandemic.

The crossing at Roxham Road, on the Canada-U.S. border south of Montreal, is where thousands have crossed into the country to make a claim for refugee status.

Read more: Coronavirus: Closing Canada’s border to refugees violates international law, experts say

The federal government ordered the crossing shut in March 2020 as the pandemic closed the U.S.-Canada border, but as of Sunday the order has been lifted.

The Canadian Council for Refugees says that other than quarantine-related rules due to COVID-19, the situation is as it was pre-pandemic, with claimants having to enter outside of an official port of entry to avoid being immediately returned to the United States.

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Under the 2004 Safe Third Country agreement, Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe, and potential refugees must file their claims in the first country they reach.

Read more: Safe Third Country Agreement on returning asylum seekers to U.S. ruled constitutional

But the agreement only applies to claims made at an official border crossing, so if asylum seekers enter at a so-called irregular crossing, they are entitled to a hearing.

Janet Dench, the council’s executive director, says advocates don’t expect the huge numbers of arrivals that were seen in 2017 and 2018.

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