The increasing migratory flows around the world have led to a rise in irregular immigration across Canada’s borders, with Roxham Road in Quebec serving as a popular transit point. Migrants arrive in groups day and night, eager to cross the last border of their journey separating Canada from the United States. The harsh winter weather conditions do not deter them from arriving with only light clothing and tennis shoes. Some have fled from gang violence, economic misery and a lack of security in their countries, while others are hoping for a new life. NGOs distribute blankets, hats, and words of encouragement to the immigrants before they file their asylum application at the nearest official border post.
The winter of 2022 saw over 5,000 people arriving illegally through the Roxham Road, more than twice the record in 2017. Despite calls to close the Roxham Road, Stéphanie Valois, the president of the Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association, believes that people in search of security are willing to do anything. She reminds people that asylum-seekers have been known to cross the Darien between Colombia and Panama, a physically difficult and dangerous path with mud, mountains and wild animals.
Eli, a Haitian migrant, describes how the jungle was the worst part of their journey – an experience marked by horror stories of death and sexual assault. Eli crossed the pass with her daughter, who was only two years old at the time. Additionally, the move to the United States proved to be challenging, with Eli detailing the inhumane treatment migrant detainees receive while being held at detention centres.
The issue of the flow of asylum seekers is expected to feature in discussions between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada during the latter’s visit in March. With immigration rhetoric on the rise, more voices are calling for a renegotiation of the treaty that stipulates migrants must file their asylum claim in the first country they arrive. Despite everything, many migrants are relieved to arrive in Canada, where they can enjoy a degree of safety and freedom from violence.