On Friday, US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new pact that will allow officials on both sides of the border to reject asylum seekers at unofficial crossings between the two countries. The deal aims to curtail an influx of migrants at Roxham Road, an unofficial crossing between New York state and the province of Quebec, which has seen a surge in migrants over the past year. The agreement will modify the 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires migrants to make an asylum claim in the first “safe” country they reach, whether it is the US or Canada.
Under the new arrangement, Canada will create a new refugee program for 15,000 migrants fleeing persecution and violence in South and Central America. The US has also seen an upsurge in migrant crossings from Canada, and officials hope the new pact will help stem the flow of irregular crossings. The deal is a modification of the Safe Third Country Agreement and will close a loophole that prevented Canada from turning away those crossing the border at unofficial points.
Negotiations on the new US-Canada border deal had been stalled for months, reportedly due to the US’s own migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border. However, with Biden in Canada for 24 hours to discuss a range of economic, trade, and immigration issues with Trudeau, the migration accord was announced before he returned to the US on Friday.
The number of migrants who have crossed the northern border at Roxham Road surged last year, and New York City authorities recently announced they were providing free bus tickets for migrants to travel up towards the US border with Canada. The new US-Canada agreement could take effect quickly, as it does not require the approval of the US Congress.
Biden’s administration has also proposed cracking 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. However, the proposal has met with backlash from human rights groups, who argue that it violates international law.
Trudeau has argued that the only way to halt irregular border crossings at Roxham Road is by renegotiating the Safe Third Country Agreement. With the new pact between the US and Canada, officials hope to reduce the number of irregular crossings and better manage the flow of migrants between the two countries.