I was still in Tijuana, situated on the US-Mexico border, when the pandemic was declared. I was working in a legal aid clinic for migrants seeking asylum in the United States
As I felt the weight of this contrast on the plane, I felt the border I was leaving behind––the one that blocks the “South” from the “North”––extend itself beneath me.
It is impossible to claim asylum in Canada without touching its soil. And to fly to Canada, you need money,
Some people from wealthier social classes can fly to the United States and then cross into Canada by land. But for many others, reaching Canada involves crossing irregularly into the United States, for example through the Sonora Desert, and then traveling through the entire country clandestinely up to Roxham Road
The United States acts as a buffer that absorbs the flow of migrants: Canada washes its hands of it. A huge country serves as its border.
The next day, reading the news, I learned that Canada was going to close its borders to refugees on March 20 as an “emergency measure” in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. Indeed, despite the enormous difficulties that prevent migrants from reaching Canada and keep them prisoner in Mexico or in the United States, some 60 people a day cross at Roxham Road
Migrants arriving at the
Closing borders as a preventive health measure does not take into account the specific situation of migrants who cannot simply fly back to their country of origin. It is unfair to treat refugees in the same way as travellers.
As activist Jaggi Singh warns, there is no indication that the special measures taken will be withdrawn once the crisis is over. We need to demand the reopening of the Roxham Road now, without waiting for the pandemic to “pass”: there is no good health reason to keep
It is unacceptable that seeking refuge is not considered an “
Afterword: On April 22nd, Canada started again to accept some asylum seekers at their border (including those who have family members in Canada, those who are apatrid or stateless and unaccompanied minors), but as of May 15, 2020 Roxham Road is still closed.