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US-Canada agree to turn back asylum seekers at border

A new US-Canada border deal meant to halt the flow of asylum seekers at unofficial border crossings has taken effect, BBC reports.

Migrants caught crossing anywhere along the 3,145 mile (5,060km) border can now be sent back.

Large numbers of unsanctioned crossings have been recorded via Roxham Road at the US-Canada border.

The new accord closes a loophole that allowed migrants to claim asylum at such unofficial ports of entry.

The announcement came as President Joe Biden visited Ottawa, Canada, to discuss a series of economic, trade and immigration issues with his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau.

The deal is part of efforts to limit an influx of migrants at Roxham Road, an unofficial crossing between New York state and the province of Quebec.

A record number of migrants – some 40,000 – crossed into Canada last year, the vast majority of which entered at Roxham Road.

As part of the pact, Canada will also create a new refugee programme for 15,000 migrants fleeing persecution and violence in South and Central America, the prime minister’s office said.

What is the Safe Third Country Act?

The original 2004 agreement, the Safe Third Country Act (STCA), requires migrants to make an asylum claim in the first “safe” country they reach, whether it is the US or Canada.

It allowed either nation to turn migrants away at official points of entry – but not at unofficial crossing points, like Roxham Road.

The new deal extends the agreement along the entire border, including internal waterways, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The new deal has been criticised by refugee advocates as ineffective to ending the irregular crossing of migrants into Canada.

It is not going to stop people, Abdulla Daoud, executive director at The Refugee Centre in Montreal, told the BBC on Friday, adding he is concerned it could incentivise human smuggling.

Speaking about the new refugee programme, he said: “The numbers are too low. We had 40,000 cross just in the past year – 15,000 is a low number and just from one part of the world, the Western hemisphere.”

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