- Every person seeking to enter Canada is being screened for COVID-19 and other health issues regardless of how they enter Canada (i.e. at ports of entry or between ports of entry).
- On March 21, the Government of Canada announced that they have reached a reciprocal agreement with the United States to direct back any foreign national seeking to enter the country between ports of entry.
- The Safe Third Country Agreement continues to apply to any claims made at ports of entry and inland.
- A new provision under subsection 41(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) has been enacted. This amendment will enable an officer to turn away a foreign national prescribed pursuant to an emergency order or regulations made under an Act of Parliament.
- There are exceptions that apply, notably for minors claiming asylum irregularly
- CBSA continues to screen asylum claimants for potential signs of illness as per standard process.
- If an individual is symptomatic, they are referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for further examination.
- Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and CBSA are ensuring that accommodation challenges for asylum seekers for the province of Quebec are being met.
Starting in 2017, Canada began to experience an increase in the movement of asylum seekers crossing in between the ports of entry (POE) in the Quebec Region, more precisely at Roxham Road. In 2018 and 2019, daily arrival average between POE remained consistent at 50 asylum seekers.
As per normal processes, once asylum seekers are processed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), they are transported by bus to temporary shelters in Montreal (YMCA Montréal) where they remain for an average of 45 days until they are able to find long-term housing. These services are offered by the Government of Quebec and federal funding has been provided to the province under the Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP). However, Quebec has voiced its concerns about the self-isolation of asylum seekers as the YMCA is not an appropriate facility to handle a self-isolation situation.
Since the appearance of COVID-19, procedures have been implemented by the CBSA, including additional screening questions and the distribution of a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) COVID-19 awareness handout. In the context of managing the current COVID-19 situation, the Government of Quebec has put forward a number of requests to the federal government regarding border management.
In order to be proactive, the federal government has opened the Auberge in Lacolle as of March 19. There is a total of eight quarantine rooms at Lacolle: four quarantine rooms and a mini-clinic on-site at the RPC (located in a winterized trailer) and four quarantine rooms at the Auberge. The quarantine rooms and clinic are to provide first aid to asylum seekers if needed and will be utilized in the event an asylum seekers is required to be isolated from the rest of the on-site population. A medical examination may be performed if a CBSA officer has concerns related to the responses provided by the asylum seekers related to COVID-19. Any asylum seekers providing negative responses but having similar symptoms would also be referred to the mini-clinic. The on-site mini-clinic in Lacolle is staffed 24/7 by two licensed nurses.
Individuals who have been processed by the CBSA and who are not showing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 will be transferred to the Auberge pending longer term accommodation arrangements by IRCC. Asylum seekers are provided with the COVID-19 awareness handout and counselled to respect social distancing. The CBSA has been informed that the Province of Quebec will resume taking asylum seekers into the provincial shelter system following the 14 day self-isolation period.
Measures on Asylum as of March 21
On March 21, 2020, in order to enhance the authority of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to respond to emergency situations that temporarily impact the border, a new provision under subsection 41(d) of the IRPR has been enacted. This amendment will enable an officer to direct back a foreign national prescribed pursuant to an emergency order or regulations made under an Act of Parliament.
There are exceptions prescribed in the regulations, including:
- A citizen of the United States;
- A stateless habitual resident of the U.S.;
- A mother, father or legal guardian of a minor who is a U.S. citizen; and
- Unaccompanied minors.
This applies to all foreign nationals, including refugee claimants and the direct-back issued by the officer would be valid for the duration of the period outlined in the emergency order or regulation. Once the emergency order is lifted, all foreign nationals who initiated a refugee claim and were directed back will be permitted to return to Canada for the continuation of their processing. This order is in place for 30 days (renewable).
CBSA has established an external website to provide information to any asylum seeker who has been directed back to the U.S.
Prepared by: Jason Daigle, Acting Manager, Intelligence and Enforcement Branch, 612-277-1177
Approved by: Jacques Cloutier, Vice President, Intelligence and Enforcement Branch, 613-948-4111
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