Federal government to transfer willing asylum seekers from Roxham Road to Ontario

Faced with a record number of asylum seekers in Quebec and mounting pressure on the province to provide resources and accommodation for them, the federal government has agreed to directly transfer some people crossing at Roxham Road to Ontario, if they wish to go there, Radio-Canada has learned.

Ottawa working to alleviate pressure on Quebec amid record number of claimants

Between January and May of this year, more than 13,000 migrants crossed at the unofficial border — more than ever before at this time of year.  (Charles Krupa/The Associated Press)

Fewer asylum seekers crossing at a popular, unofficial border point south of Montreal will be staying in Quebec, Radio-Canada has learned. 

That's because Ottawa has accepted a repeated request from the provincial government to transfer some people directly to Ontario — if they wish to go there.

With record numbers of claimants currently crossing via the makeshift border point, called Roxham Road, the federal government said it's working to alleviate some of the pressure on Quebec to provide temporary resources and accommodation for people. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that "a number of [asylym seekers] do not intend to stay in Quebec. The first transfers to Ontario began June 30.

The agency didn't specify how many people will be sent to Ontario on a daily basis, but "a small number" will go to Niagara Falls, it said. 

"IRCC is working with the City of Ottawa and the Municipality of Niagara Falls to help refugee claimants find alternative housing and access the community supports available to them," said Julie Lafortune, a spokesperson for the IRCC. 

While the cost of social services, including housing, remains the responsibility of the province and municipalities, the federal government is promising to help substantially with the bill.

More than $500 million has been provided to Quebec to help alleviate the pressures of housing refugee claimants from 2017 to 2020, as well as the rising costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the IRCC.

More reception capacity near crossing site

Last month, Quebec Premier François Legault called for the federal government to close Roxham Road, saying that the province doesn't have the capacity to care for migrants as they wait for their refugee claims to be processed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said closing the unofficial border would not slow the arrival of asylum seekers. 

Between January and May of this year, more than 13,000 migrants crossed at the unofficial border — more than ever before at this time of year. 

The Canada Border Services Agency said it's now boosting its reception capacity near the Roxham Road crossing site.

New trailers will be installed on a service road in the coming weeks, making it possible to accommodate nearly 500 migrants, compared to about 300 currently.

Based on a report from Radio-Canada's Romain Shue