Facts About “Irregular Migration” in Context

Facts About “Irregular Migration” in Context– Diane Johnston –

Canada deems those who cross the Canada-U.S. border without passing through official border crossings as irregular migrants. Certain forces cynically exploit the situation of immigrants and refugees for self-serving purposes.

Using the shopworn practice of divide and rule, it is claimed that unsustainable numbers of immigrants and refugees are creating social crises. There is no truth to this. It is disinformation to cover up the anti-social offensive that has been waged on the people for decades by the ruling circles, to undermine the people’s struggles to unite their efforts to create new pro-social arrangements. Moreover, it fails to address the reasons why people are displaced from their homelands and migrate to other countries, because doing so would directly implicate Canada as a responsible party.

This is the background to demands from the Premier of Quebec and others to strengthen the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which Canada and the U.S. have now agreed to do. Looking at the actual figures, demands to crack down on supposedly high numbers of so-called irregular migrants do not bear up to scrutiny.

In 2022, 39,171 people entered Canada by way of Roxham Road. The Roxham Road crossing between Quebec and New York State is well known but not the only point where such border crossings are made. Total figures for migration through unofficial crossings into Canada from the U.S. are not readily available.

Not all of those making irregular crossings apply for asylum as refugees — only 20,891 people who crossed into Canada by foot claimed asylum in 2022, out of a total of 60,158 claims. The STCA and its recent extension to apply across the entire land border and waterways between Canada and the U.S. would specifically turn back such people to the U.S.

One of the major reasons for people being displaced and forced to migrate are the U.S.-led coups, sanctions, aggression and wars. Canada, as an appeaser of U.S. imperialism and through its membership in the aggressive alliance NATO, is fully embroiled in such activities. A majority of Quebeckers and Canadians oppose this support for U.S. imperialism and consider that Canada should not be creating refugees in the first place and should let in those it has victimized and displaced, not as an act of charity but to take responsibility for its wrong-doing.

The number of those seeking refugee status needs to be looked at in the context of Canada’s overall immigration numbers. The Migrant Rights Network notes that 616,429 Ukrainians have been approved for travel to Canada since 2022 and that in 2022 nearly 1.2 million new work and study permits were approved in Canada. The network further points out, “When asylum claimants arrive on foot from the U.S., they go through normal security screenings and the refugee claim process just like any other claimant. The acceptance rate for asylum seekers crossing on foot is 60 per cent, the same as all other claimants.”

In other words, there is nothing exceptional about irregular crossings at Roxham Road or anywhere else, nor do these crossings and refugee claimants figure largely in the total numbers of those migrating to Canada. The facts and figures make clear that the STCA is unnecessary and the demand for its repeal is just.