Closing Roxham road will do more damage than good.

Photo by: Praveen Kumar

Canada needs to do better with their immigration policies.

On March 24, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States’ President Joe Biden met to discuss various issues. Among them, the Roxham Road irregular border crossing. On March 25, the change in policy came into effect, preventing those who crossed from claiming asylum and allowing Canada to turn them back to the U.S. if they arrive through the irregular border crossing.

This decision could prove costly, not just in terms of money. Closing this unofficial border crossing will not stop refugees from emigrating. It will only lead them to more unconventional and dangerous ways to cross. It could turn into a similar situation as the U.S.-Mexican border where thousands of people are trying to cross through the exploitative and inhumane guidance of human traffickers which puts many refugees at risk.  

Something to keep in mind is that many refugees go through irregular border crossings because they have no other choice. They’re fleeing their country for a reason and desperate situations result in taking that risk.

For a long time, Canada has been seen as a haven for refugees, and for a while, it may have been. But currently, Canada is not meeting their promise; refugees come with a different idea about Canada as they’ve been misinformed and expect to find the help and resources Canada used to provide decades ago. But in its current state, the federal government is not providing enough help to properly receive refugees.

Closing Roxham Road is putting a band-aid on a more significant problem, and as previously mentioned, it could cause more damage than good by putting people at risk. Instead, if the country prides itself in receiving refugees, then the focus should be on the infrastructure to accommodate these refugees.

A plan for something as critical as housing has not been put in place. Shelters across the province have seen an influx of refugee claimants and quickly become overwhelmed as they don’t all have the resources to help asylum seekers.

This leads to situations like the thousands of families being sent to hotels across Niagara late in March. But this again is a short-term solution to a problem that should be prioritized by the federal government.

In a podcast by The Conversation, Clark-Kazak, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa explained the double standard in Canada’s immigration policy:

“It’s important for us, as Canadians, to have this discussion and think very carefully about why certain categories of people coming from certain areas are welcomed with open arms and other people, we’re effectively just slamming the door in their faces.”

When it comes to refugees, Canada shouldn’t get to pick and choose who gets to apply for asylum. Closing Roxham Road is targeted at a specific population.

In 2022, approximately 40,000 refugee claimants crossed Roxham Road from South and Central America, as well as other places. To put it into perspective, 130,000 Ukrainian refugees were welcomed in that same year. Canada prides itself in welcoming refugees from all over, but policies such as closing Roxham Road show a preference and a limitation where there shouldn’t be any. This isn’t to say Ukrainian refugees shouldn’t receive help, but that refugees from all over should receive the same priority Canada promises.

Instead of subtly leaving messages, Canada’s immigration policies need to be clearer and do what they say they’re going to do. Receiving refugees without allocating resources and proper planning to help them is a problem that should be addressed.

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