The leader of the Parti Québécois is calling for the suspension of the Safe Third Country Agreement amid a surge of asylum seekers arriving at illegal border crossings into Quebec.
Under the agreement, the majority of migrants coming from the United States who make an asylum claim at an official border checkpoint in Canada are denied entry since the U.S. is deemed to be safe.
“The problem is that we get the impression that the border doesn’t exist,” Jean-François Lisée told Radio-Canada. “Without this agreement, people would show up at border crossings.”
As a result of the Safe Third Country Agreement, a growing number of asylum seekers are instead arriving at unofficial crossings, such as Roxham Road in Hemmingford, Que., where they are arrested but not immediately refused entry.
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Lisée said that the crisis has become a problem in Quebec and that the agreement needs to be struck down.
“It has damaging repercussions,” he said. “It’s time to face the facts and admit that it’s not a good decision.”
More than 1,000 wait to be processed
Lisée’s letter comes as the province struggles to handle a growing boom of migrants fleeing from the United States and showing up at Quebec borders. As of Friday, close to 1,200 people were waiting to be processed at the Lacolle border crossing.
The PQ has also questioned Quebec’s capacity to accommodate the influx of refugees, while the Coalition Avenir Québec has demanded stricter rules and claimed that the border has become a “sieve”.
Lisée added that it would be helpful if asylum seekers were granted work permits to be able to support themselves while waiting to see if the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada tribunal accepts their asylum claim.