Roxham Road (US-Canada border), Feb 15 (EFE).- Hundreds of asylum seekers are entering Canadian territory from the United States on a daily basis via Roxham Road, an unofficial border crossing south of Montreal.

That movement of people is easing some of the pressure on New York City, which has received some 45,000 undocumented foreigners in less than a year, mostly from Latin America, and now is trying to relocate them to other places.

On one freezing night in February, Efe observed 100 migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Colombia, Nigeria, Turkey and Pakistan use that rural road to cross the border in just an hour and a half.

All had traveled from the Big Apple and all were anxious about what was to come, but none was turned back.

Canadian immigration officials say 4,689 people entered Canada via Roxham Road in December alone.

Meanwhile, Anne Williams-Isom, New York City’s deputy mayor for health and human services, did not provide a precise figure to Efe but said those migrants heading north of the border represent only a fraction of the more than 45,000 asylum seekers the city has assisted.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, for his part, acknowledges that the city has launched a strategy for handling the migrant wave and that his administration is covering the travel costs of migrants who voluntarily wish to leave the Big Apple for any other US destination.

Some of those subsidized trips, however, are facilitating travel to Canada, with migrants being transported from New York City to Plattsburgh, a small town located in the northeastern corner of New York state near the Canadian province of Quebec.

Although the buses that take them there continue on to Montreal, nearly all of the migrants get off the vehicle beforehand to cross into Canada via Roxham Road, about a 15-minute drive from Plattsburgh.

Taxi drivers in that US town, who are now serving as a virtual shuttle service to the border and charging a hefty $50 per person for the ride, say the figure being provided by Canadian authorities is too low and that many more migrants are making this journey.

An official border crossing is situated just east of Plattsburgh but is only used by Canadians and Americans traveling to Montreal.

On the US side of snow-covered Roxham Road, there are no people or buildings at all.

Prefabricated barracks without any flag flying, meanwhile, are all that is found on the Canadian side, where a police officer greets each group of migrants with a single message spoken in English, Spanish and French: “This crossing isn’t legal. Do you understand? You will be detained. If you keep going, you do so at your own risk.”

No one turns back, and the threat of arrest appears empty. The migrants, all of whom request asylum, are processed and even offered a cup of coffee.

Hours later, they are transported to the place of their choice to await resolution of their asylum case.

Canada’s supposed advantages have spread by word of mouth among Latin American migrants who made their way to New York City but have grown frustrated with bureaucratic delays in the US and also have concerns about street crime and their inability to gain access to essential goods and services.

The accounts of Venezuelans who crossed the border into Canada and have relayed their experiences serve to lure other migrants to make the same journey.

Aurimar Medina spent several months looking for food and work on the streets of New York until she grew tired of that search and emigrated northward.

She now says by phone from the city of Niagara Falls (Ontario province) that conditions are much better north of the border.

“Canadian papers take a few months, not years like in the United States; I entered on Dec. 1 and in just two months I now live in my three-bedroom house,” Aurimar said, adding that she receives housing assistance and other benefits per each adult and each child in her household, an amount totaling 2,365 Canadian dollars per month (roughly $2,000).

Ecuador’s Zulema Diaz, coordinator of a non-governmental organization that assists immigrants in New York, said many migrants choose to leave due to crime problems in that city.

She said they must share space in free shelters with homeless people, many of whom have mental health problems.

“Myself, when I arrived, I found my bed was full of feces because another resident had defecated on it.”

Daniel, another Venezuelan migrant who traveled to Canada via Roxham Road, said he had left the US with his 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

“I’m really worried about them growing up in a dangerous neighborhood,” he said, mentioning the New York City borough of the Bronx and the south side of Chicago, where his family temporarily lived.

Power Malu, a Puerto Rican volunteer at another NGO in New York City, said authorities there are encouraging migrants to find another place to live but that the stories they hear about life in Canada and their own daily struggles in New York City are the main factors driving them to relocate.

“The system seems designed to discourage migrants,” he said. “They give you food, yes … but most of the time it’s a cold sandwich.” EFE
© 2023 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.


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