Irregular Migration in COVID-19 Context
- Due to the exceptional circumstances related to COVID-19, the Government of Canada has entered into a temporary, reciprocal, agreement with the United States to prevent entry to Canada of asylum seekers crossing irregularly, between ports of entry, with the intent of making a claim for refugee protection.
- This means that asylum claimants entering Canada from the U.S. through any mode of travel, including those who enter between official ports of entry, will be directed back to the U.S. with very few exceptions, including unaccompanied minors, and the other exemptions.
- Canada has formally obtained assurance from the U.S. that they will not detain or remove these individuals.
- This temporary agreement will be in place until April 20, 2020, and is subject to an extension.
- Canada intends to uphold its international commitments and any asylum claimant will subsequently be allowed to have their claims processed in Canada.
Irregular migrants already in Canada
We are facilitating the self-isolation of asylum claimants who have arrived near Roxham Road prior to March 21, 2020, by providing temporary accommodations for a 14-day period.
Any asylum claimants showing symptoms will be immediately referred to a Quarantine Officer for a full health assessment and isolated as necessary.
- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has taken several extraordinary measures to restrict non-essential travel. Most recently, Canada announced there will be new restrictions on all non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border.
- The Government is also recommending that all those entering Canada self-isolate for 14 days in order to limit the spread of the virus, and some provincial authorities have made further recommendations for self-isolation for those returning from abroad.
- Canada continues to receive asylum claims at the land border, both at designated ports of entry and at irregular crossing points, primarily at the Roxham Road crossing in Lacolle, Quebec.
- On March 20, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will prohibit the entry of foreign nationals from the U.S. for the purposes of making an asylum claim, directing them back to the U.S. The prohibition on making an asylum claim, however, would not apply to:
- A U.S. citizen or stateless habitual resident of the U.S. making a claim against the U.S.
- Unaccompanied minors making a claim against the U.S.
- Parents (or legal guardians) of a U.S. minor citizen that is claiming asylum against the U.S.
- With respect to irregular migration, the Government of Quebec has asked the federal government to take responsibility for ensuring that asylum seekers arriving at Roxham Road respect the 14-day voluntary self-isolation period that has been requested by Quebec health authorities for anyone arriving in the province from a foreign destination after March 12, 2020.
- Usually, once irregular asylum claimants arriving at Roxham Road are processed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and subsequently the Canada Border Services Agency, they are transported from the Lacolle port of entry to Montreal, where they are housed temporarily in provincially-managed shelters until permanent housing can be found. In the context of COVID-19, however, shelters are not appropriate for meeting self-isolation protocols.
- Federal facilities at Lacolle and the nearby Auberge are limited. In addition, basic health services at the site are inadequate to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19. In response to Quebec’s request, and in order to reduce potential public health risks to Canadians, the Government has taken action to facilitate the self-isolation of asylum claimants arriving at Roxham Road by providing temporary accommodation for 14 days as strongly recommended by public health experts and officials. The government is procuring additional temporary accommodation facilities to ensure that space is provided for asylum claimants to follow appropriate social distancing protocols.
- In addition, and in order to reduce the public health risks to Canadians and reduce pressure on Canada’s health care system, an order has been made under the Quarantine Act that prohibits a foreign national from entering Canada from the United States for the purpose of making a claim for refugee protection, be it regularly or irregularly.
- It must be noted that the 14-day period of self-isolation for asylum claimants is voluntary. In cases where asylum claimants do not show symptoms of COVID-19 and do not demonstrate an elevated health risk to the Canadian public, the Government cannot enforce self-isolation if asylum claimants choose to leave the temporary accommodation sites.
Prepared by: Jennifer Castronero A/Assistant Director – Domestic Network 613-462-7349
Approved by: Mike MacDonald, AADM Operations 613-462-7349
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