On this blog, we used to post information about our visits to the border at Roxham Road, USA side.
Since the closure of Roxham Road on Friday 24 March 2023, we're attempting to keep a log of the info we have about refugees who have been returned to the US.
Sur ce blogue, nous avons affiché des informations sur nos visites à la frontière, Roxham Road, États Unis. Depuis la fermeture de Roxham Road le vendredi 24 mars 2023, nous essayons de tenir un répertoire des informations que nous avons cueillies sur les réfugiés qui ont été renvoyés aux États-Unis.
We arrived at Roxham at 3.20 pm on a cold, snowy day. We were accompanied by two film students from the University of Quebec in Montreal. They were planning to make a documentary on Roxham Road for their degree studies.
The first taxi came at about 3.45 pm bringing seven young men (in their 20's and early 30's) from Afghanistan, Turkey and one who was likely from Sri Lanka. They were all in need of gloves, hats and scarves and carried very little with them. Some wore only shoes. After the police officer said the usual things, he added in a rather irritated tone: '' it's your choice now so make up your minds''. I was talking in basic English with a friendly man from Turkey while they waited to cross at the border. He pulled out a box of cigarettes and offered me one and so did another man. This was a first! I explained that they would not be able to smoke once they crossed into Canada :) They smilingly replaced them and crossed with the rest of the group without incident
Quickly after this a second taxi brought a family from Venezuela - a couple with two children in their early teens. We spoke halting Spanish with them which they appreciated. The father was concerned about being deported. They crossed into Canada. and likely did not understand what the RCMP said. This is often the case given the fact that people come from around the world and many do not speak English or French.
The last taxi brought another Hispanic family: parents and one child. They accepted some warm things but there was not time to speak with them.
In total we met with 14 people this afternoon.
The crossing went well. We arrived at Roxham Rd around 3:00pm.
3 taxis and an SUV all arrived at the same time at 3:37pm.
There were three young men from Venezuela (16 yrs old), from Congo (around 19), and from Nigeria (around 20); two men from Afghanistan in their 30s; a young woman and a family with a young child from Haiti; and a family with two children, 8 and 14, from Peru.
Two young men from Afghanistan (around 20 and 25), the younger one had no passport.
When it came to crossing over, the first border agent told the group they needed to cross at a regular border crossing or they would be arrested. The large group hesitated a little while (one of the taxi drivers stayed to see they got over...), then a few forged forward and the rest followed. The last taxi said there were no more coming.
Many were happy to get mitts etc, some came with their own.
My fellow volunteer had brought a scarf, a hat and 2 pairs of man's mitts which he gave away.
We left at 4:30pm, the return was without incident.
It was almost 4:15 before anyone arrived and then it was chaos! Seven cars and minivans arrived pretty much all at once. There was a group of about 8 from Colombia followed by a large extended family from Venezuela that arrived in several vehicles. They were travelling with about 10 young children ranging from a toddler to perhaps a 7 year old. I guess the taxis and vans don’t come equipped with child car seats and they pile in as many small kids as possible. A single man from Georgia came by private car. A young Afghani man arrived in a taxi with a group of Congolese. In our scramble to offer hats, gloves and scarves we rather lost count of exactly how many people crossed and where they were from but we would estimate about 40 in all. The RCMP seemed reasonable. We had no issues at either the US or Canadian border.
A chilly sunny day at Roxham Road. The first taxi arrived around 3.30 pm bringing one man from Georgia. He was warmly dressed and did not take any warm things. He did not speak any English or French. He walked across with one hand in the air. The RCMP officers were polite.
Shortly afterwards a taxi brought two young men, one from Afghanisatan and the other from Columbia. They accepted some warm clothes. One of the police officers spoke to the Columbian man in Spanish.
Another taxi brought a single man from Djibouti in east Africa. He spoke French .
Next a taxi arrived with a shy couple (woman and man) from Haiti who accepted some warm things. When the woman crossed over she failed to stop when the officer told her to do so. Eventually she did stop and the officer gave her quite a lecture about this. He asked them about open food and required them to dispose of it. Immediately afterwards two young Venezuelans arrived and accepted some warm things. A different officer dealt with them and was low key and respectful.
Then a family of four arrived consisting of a Haitian man, a Brazilian woman and their two children, a girl aged about 12 and a boy about 4 years old. The officer tried to encourage them to go to Lacolle and told them wrongly that their 'illegal' entry into Canada could affect their asylum case. This is absolutely not the case as all refugee claims received by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada are treated in the same way, regardless of how the person entered Canada. RCMP have no authority to give out any information about asylum claims, let alone false information.
The same officer made the family go through all their belongings looking for any open food. They had to dispose of it before crossing despite the fact that there are two large garbage bins just outside the RCMP installation. This took quite some time before they crossed over. Then, still outside, the officers took at least 10 minutes going through documents while the children were clearly suffering from the cold. Surely all this could have been dealt with inside in the warmth. Finally they were able to go inside.
The last person to arrive was a tall young man from Sri Lanka who spoke no English. He had a hat and gloves but accepted a scarf. He was carrying his cell phone that he looked at the whole time. He carried only a very small paper bag and no other belongings. After crossing he showed documents to the police officer but he did not appear to have a passport.
In total, 13 people crossed this afternoon: 2 children, two women and 9 men.
I arrived at the border about 2.45pm. The border agent was the younger one from the previous week. He immediately asked where the ''other person'' was who had been with me last Sunday. He continued with the same questions as he had the previous week and went through the trunk and the back seat. After consulting with a person inside the building he let me drive on.
I waited at Roxham Road for about 30 minutes when a taxi arrived with two men. Both of them were extremely scared, did not speak English, but said that they were from Turkey. They did not need hats or mittens but had almost no luggage. They stood at the border for a long time while an RCMP officer gave his usual speech. It was obvious that the men did not speak English. When they were finally on Canadian soil, the officer said that he did not speak Turkish and insisted that they needed to speak English because he knew that they could. He was very rough.
About 30 minutes later a private car arrived. A man brought another man, both were from Bangladesh. The driver said that he did not know the other person, he was just dropping him off. The passenger was well dressed, had a suitcase and went across without hesitation.
I left at about 4.30pm.
When we arrived at the border, we had a US border agent who could not understand why we were driving to the border to meet refugees. He questioned us for quite a while and finally ordered us to enter the custom building. There was another agent inside who was much younger and seemed to answer to the older agent. We were asked to empty our pockets and to hand over personal belongings.
They opened my companion's wallet and then emptied my purse onto the counter. I was not permitted to pick up my purse until we were allowed to leave. My car was searched and we got a long lecture that what we were doing was illegal. Finally, after about 30 minutes we were allowed to leave (with my purse). Despite being told it was 'illegal' to give out hats and mitts to people at Roxham Road, we were allowed to enter the US!
At Roxham Road, there were about 43 refugees from Haiti, Congo, Nigeria, Columbia and Nicaragua. There was one baby with parents and two siblings. Another couple brought with them two girls about 8-10 years old, and there was a mother with one child. Most had very little luggage except for one family. Some of the refugees had hats and mittens but most of them did not. They accepted the offered hats, mitts and scarves with gratitude. The last person to arrive was a young man from Cuba who only was wearing a jeans jacket, jeans and torn running shoes. We left at about 4.30pm.
The earlier border visit reports were written by the volunteers who were at the border on that day, the later updates about the situation in the US are an attempt to keep a log of what we find out through our own visits in the US, or through contacts in the US.