Canadian border closed indefinitely to most asylum seekers

Contributed by Canada-US Cross Border Network

A network of nongovernmental organizations and lawyers in Canada and the U.S., helping asylum seekers, in particular those directed back to the U.S. due to the Safe Third Party Agreement or the pandemic border closure.

Even as mass vaccination is being rolled out in Canada and the United States, the border between the two countries remains closed to most asylum seekers, due to the pandemic. Local agencies on both sides of the border are seeing increased inquiries about crossing the border into Canada to claim refugee status. At this time, however, most people seeking refuge are not permitted to enter Canada and are directed back to the United States immediately. The border is likely to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Restrictions on who can enter Canada are in place both at official ports of entry and at unofficial crossings such as the one at Roxham Road in upstate New York. There is still a significant risk that people directed back by Canadian border authorities will be detained and placed in removal proceedings by U.S. authorities. Other asylum seekers with little or no resources are getting stranded at the border after being directed back.

We strongly encourage people to get advice from a trusted refugee lawyer or support organization before making plans to cross the U.S.-Canada border. Unless asylum seekers meet the very narrow exceptions provided by the Safe Third Country Agreement, they will be directed back. Even those who believe they meet an exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement still should seek legal advice before attempting to cross the border at an official port of entry.

Information for Asylum Seekers
Freedom House, Detroit, Mich.
(313) 964-4320

Alex Vernon, Detroit Mercy School of Law, Detroit, Mich.
(313) 444-9222; [email protected]

Bridges Not Borders/Créons des ponts, Québec, Canada
(514) 277 1298, Wendy; [email protected]