Canada's Trudeau to bring up asylum-seeker pact during Biden visit

CARICOM meeting is held in Bahamas

By Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he will discuss re-negotiating a border pact that makes it difficult to turn back asylum seekers entering through unofficial crossings when U.S. President Joe Biden visits Ottawa in March.

Canada wants to rewrite the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which allows for anyone trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border in either direction to be sent back to the first of the two countries they arrived in, with few exceptions.

But the agreement does not cover unofficial border crossings like Roxham Road between New York State and the province of Quebec, a dirt path that has become a route of choice for people hoping to claim refugee status in Canada.

Asked about the STCA on Thursday, Trudeau said he has told Biden in past conversations that reworking the agreement was a "shared priority to ensure the safety of our shared border."

"That will certainly be a conversation that we will continue to have with the U.S. administration, including at the visit of the president," he told reporters in Halifax.

Biden will make his first visit to Canada in March since taking office two years ago.

The movement of asylum-seekers into Canada from the United States has picked up since Canada lifted COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in late 2021. More than 39,000 refugees entered Canada last year via unofficial crossings, the vast majority via Roxham Road.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said his province has reached its capacity to take in asylum-seekers and has called on Trudeau to push the United States to rewrite the STCA.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa, editing by Deepa Babington)