RCMP demolish last structure at Quebec's Roxham Road migrant crossing

LACOLLE, Que. — The last RCMP building is coming down at Roxham Road, which became an unofficial border crossing used by more than 100,000 migrants crossing into Canada from Upstate New York to apply for asylum since 2017.

The sound of crumpling metal filled the air Monday morning as demolition started on the structure located at the end of a rural road about 50 kilometres southeast of Montreal, by the United States border.

RCMP Sgt. Charles Poirier says the temporary building has reached the end of its useful life because the flow of asylum seekers across the border has slowed dramatically in recent months.

The unofficial crossing was shut down in late March after the U.S. and Canada closed a long-standing loophole in the 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement to make the deal apply to the 8,900 kilometres of shared border.

Poirier says about 113,000 people used Roxham Road since 2017 to enter Quebec from the U.S. Now, he says, the number of migrants crossing irregularly has slowed to about 14 a week spread over the entire Champlain sector, which includes Roxham Road and surrounding areas.

The RCMP will no longer maintain a 24/7 presence at the road but will continue to patrol the border with their counterparts from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Under the 2004 Canada-U.S. agreement, asylum seekers have to apply for refugee status in the first of the two countries they enter. Before the loophole was closed, migrants were able to cross the border at illegal checkpoints — like Roxham Road — and claim asylum in either country.

For years before 2017 Roxham Road had been a popular spot to cross, but the entry point started recording a spike in asylum seekers after the U.S. cracked down on illegal immigration and imposed new restrictions on refugees under then-president Donald Trump.

In response, RCMP built infrastructure at the site to deal with the heavy foot traffic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.

The Canadian Press