Canada will now turn back asylum-seekers attempting to enter the country outside of official border points, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday — part of a set of extreme new measures meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Asylum seekers were already barred from entering Canada at official border points under the Safe Third Country Agreement, but migrants have continued to arrive by foot at Roxham Road in Quebec in a steady flow due to an exception for non-official crossings under the agreement.
Another agreement to close the Canada-U.S. border to all but essential travel, trade and commerce will kick in at midnight.
The largest number of migrants are from Nigeria. Once in Canada, they are eligible to apply for asylum.
“The claimants get automatic access to health care,” Stephanie Levitz, a journalist in Ottawa with The Canadian Press says in an email to NPR. “It’s called the Interim Federal Health Program that kicks in as soon as you make a claim.”
Early this week, adds Levitz, about 80 people were still crossing per day and Canadian officials declared Roxham Rd. would remain open — but asylum seekers would have to go into quarantine for 14 days.
Essential cross-border workers like health-care professionals, air crews and supply chains will be permitted to cross. However, anyone attempting to cross the border for tourism or recreational reasons will be turned away.
The measure will be in place for 30 days.
Risk to Canadians
There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:
aged 65 and over
with compromised immune systems
with underlying medical conditions
There are also increased health risks for Canadian travellers abroad. Because of these risks, the Government of Canada advises you to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.
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