Around 100 unaccompanied minors have crossed through Quebec’s Roxham Road seeking asylum since the U.S. border reopened following pandemic restrictions, according to Lucie Tremblay, Associate CEO of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.
The health authority is in charge of the Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA), which takes charge of migrant children.
News that underaged children continue crossing at Roxham Road alone caused collective dismay at the National Assembly.
“The situation is very worrying, I’m very preoccupied,” said Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette on Tuesday.
To make matters more complicated, migrants are arriving at the border by bus, with tickets paid for by U.S. officials, as admitted by New York Mayor Eric Adams.
When asked about the matter by Rosanna Scotto, the co-host of Good Day New York, the mayor replied that migrants who ask to go somewhere other than the U.S. are given help to get there.
“We’re not pushing or forcing, if they’re seeking to go somewhere else, we are helping in the re-ticketing process. We found that people had other destinations, but they were being compelled only to come to New York City, and we are assisting in interviewing those who seek to go somewhere else. Some want to go to Canada, some want to go to warmer states, and we are there for them as they continue to move on with their pursuit of this dream,” Adams told Scotto.
Québec Solidaire’s co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said the situation was deplorable.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s not safe for people to cross under those conditions,” Nadeau-Dubois said.
Nadeau-Dubois believes the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States needs to be renegotiated.
Under the Agreement, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first of the two countries they arrive in.
If they don’t, they can be refused.
But the agreement doesn’t apply to unofficial border crossings such as Roxham Road, a loophole for those entering Canada through the United States.
“It is a federal jurisdiction, they have to assume their responsibility,” Nadeau-Dubois said.
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The Parti Québécois wants to go further. Paul St-Pierre Plamondon believes Roxham Road should simply be closed.
Liberal interim leader Marc Tanguay disagrees.
“It’s not by building a wall, that’s my take on this position, that you will solve the problem,” Tanguay said.
Tanguay says the United States also needs to assume responsibility in the matter and stop busing people to Quebec.
“They are not merchandise, they’re humans,” Tanguay said.
Meanwhile, the province announced $3.5 million in emergency funding on Monday to help community organizations deal with the influx of migrants.
Fréchette agrees the federal government needs to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement and expand it “coast to coast” so it applies to unofficial crossings as well.
“So I am waiting for the federal government to take action very quickly in the coming weeks.”
Fréchette says that day after day, she will hound the federal government for a resolution.
— with files from The Canadian Press