RCMP want warmer, larger work space at Roxham Road's illegal border crossing

The RCMP have put out a call for bids to construct a work space that is bigger, warmer and better insulated at Roxham Road’s illegal border crossing in the Eastern Townships.

Last year, 90% of all illegal crossings happened in Quebec, most of them at Roxham Road in Eastern Townships

The RCMP has put out a call for tenders to build a bigger, better insulated temporary building at Roxham Road, where most of the illegal border crossings into Canada are taking place. (Benjamin Shingler/CBC)

The RCMP have put out a call for bids to construct a work space that is bigger, warmer and better insulated at Roxham Road's illegal border crossing in the Montérégie.

The call for tenders asks for a steel-sided building about 140 square metres, which is about the size of a small bungalow.

Air-tight and water-resistant, the new building would also allow for heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.

RCMP Cpl. Erique Gasse said the new building, which will be a temporary structure, will help with the continuing police operation at the illegal border crossing.

"It's going to be more appropriate for the work we do, because we work every day with people crossing the border at this very point. So we're going to be there as long as needed, but it's not permanent," Gasse said.

Last year, 90 per cent of illegal border crossings into Canada happened in Quebec — most of those at Roxham Road.

The official crossing at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle is only about 10 kilometres away, but at Roxham Road, there aren't many facilities. Last summer, when hundreds of migrants were crossing daily, the RCMP installed tables and a few tents for shade.
Last summer, when hundreds of migrants were crossing daily, the RCMP installed tables and a few tents for shade. (CBC)

For now, officers are processing migrants in temporary trailers.

Gasse said the new structure will replace the trailers.

For operational reasons, Gasse said he could not reveal how many RCMP agents would be working out of the new building, but he said there will be enough to deal with the numbers of asylum seekers crossing the border.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government has learned from the influx of migrants last year.

"All Canadian laws will be fully and properly enforced, and all Canadian international obligations will be fully respected. We need to make sure that we have the personnel, the resources and the facilities in place to do that proper job," Goodale said.

Right now, RCMP officers process migrants at the illegal border crossing in trailers that have no heating nor air conditioning. (CBC)
People who work with migrants say it's a good idea to take a more humane approach.

"It will be safer for people who show up at the border and also much more practical for personnel to process all these requests, over which they have no control of the volume coming in," said Francine Dupuis, spokesperson for PRAIDA, a provincial government organization that helps asylum seekers in their first months in Quebec.

Last December, about 1,900 people crossed illegally into Quebec and were intercepted by the RCMP. That's about 10 per cent of the total number for the entire year of 2017.

With files from CBC's Elias Abboud