For many migrants from countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Haiti and others, Roxham Road represents the last obstacle before entering Canada and the prospect of a new life.
In 2022, nearly 40 000 people arrived in Canada by this route, twice as many as in 2017. Last January, more than 5 000 migrants arrived here with little else but their meagre possessions.
"I have always seen Canada on television and I have always dreamed of going there. I have seen a beautiful country and I would like to discover it. Because in my country, I suffered a lot and I would like to have a better life", said a Marcello, a migrant from Haiti.
After being checked and registered by police officers, the migrants are taken to the nearest official border post to file an asylum claim. Amongst the migrants are many families with children.
"Kids are a lot more resilient. They’re just… I don't think they realize what's going on. So it's not a big deal. They’re playing, they're talking about the snow, they're doing whatever. It's the parents who are reacting more and sometimes we see very strong emotional reactions from people as they get ready to cross", said Frances Ravensbergen, spokesperson for the NGO "Bridges not Borders"
But anti-migrant rhetoric is growing in Canada and there is increasing pressure to close this point of access.
"We already have fatalities. Closing Roxham Road is clearly going to mean more people trying to get across in a country where winter is a very dangerous time of year. We are talking about pregnant women, we are talking about families with children, so closing Roxham Road, for us, is putting all these people in danger", argues Maryse Poisson, spokesperson of the NGO "Welcome Collective".
The influx of asylum seekers, particularly via Roxham Road, is expected to be a topic of discussion between President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in two weeks time when the American President visits Ottawa.
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