On this blog, we are posting information about our visits to the border at Roxham Road, USA side.
For more information about the purpose of these visits go to the news page.
Sur ce blogue, nous affichons des informations sur nos visites à la frontière, Roxham Road, États Unis.
Pour plus d'info sur le but de ces visites allez sur la page nouvelles.
Today changed from hot and muggy to rainy and chilly in a matter of minutes, causing the refugees to dig for jackets just as they were preparing to cross the border. Thank goodness they didn’t have to stand outside in a downpour.
One group of 4 adults and 2 small children from the Democratic Republic of Congo were quickly followed by 3 adults and 1 young child from Ghana. Everyone seemed calm.
The RCMP were following their protocol when receiving the refugees.
We got to the border around 3:00 pm. We picked up garbage and took a few poignant photos of things left behind (see photos)... Cell phone, torn up documents, food containers, a baby sandal, a juice box, next to the orange cone.
At 3:30 pm, three taxis pulled up. The taxi driver told us they were all French-speaking, from DR Congo, and possibly other African countries. There were 3 women, 3 children (all children seemed to be in one family, including an infant), and 9 men.
They were recited the usual 'welcome' of "Do not cross here it is an Illegal crossing. If you cross here, you will be put under arrest....You can go cross at the legal port of entry a few miles East of here....". They were made to stand outside and processed small group by small group, going into the plastic tent. (It must be very hot there in the summer heat?) Luckily the group with kids went first. They were asked to put their cell phones in their suitcase, and they could put money (bills and necessary medication in their pockets). Cards were to be put in their suitcases.
At 3:45 pm, a fourth taxi pulled up with three men in it, also French-speaking, dressed in winter coats. There was only one RCMP officer watching the first outside group at that time, so the newcomers were not greeted, nor given the "welcome spiel". They just crossed and joined the other group, so RCMP protocol was not followed.
It was 4:15 pm when the last person went into the tent. It was very buggy, and at 4:05 pm the guard watching the group outside went in to get some bug spray, leaving the group unattended for a short while.
A total of 18 people crossed during the time we were there. We left around 4:45 pm.
A very warm and sunny afternoon. We arrived before 3.30pm and stayed until 5pm. We spend the waiting time picking up garbage.
After awhile, a taxi arrived with two people from the Democratic Republic of Congo - a man and woman who are not a couple. They both seem ok and seem to be well informed about what will happen. The RCMP officer explains the situation and says that if they want to cross "legally'' they can go to Lacolle port of entry. He says 'it's your choice'. They cross without incident.
Very soon after that a family from Columbia arrives - mother, father and a boy about 8 years old. They speak only Spanish and we are able to offer a simple greeting. They seem apprehensive about what will happen. I doubt they understood what the RCMP officer told them, but they crossed quickly into Canada.
Both the taxi drivers were very friendly. No one else arrived while we were there. A total of 5 people crossed- 4 adults and one child.
I had quite a long wait at the small Lacolle border (Route 221). There were 2 cars ahead of me that both took a long time. It seems that the border guard on duty was in quite a chatty mood. When it was finally my turn, the guard, a fellow in his late 30's or early 40's, didn't so much interrogate me as "inform" me of his opinions on refugees. After I told him that I was a member of a volunteer group concerned with the welfare of refugees entering Canada at Roxham Road, his first comment was something like "don't you know those people are at the bottom of the barrel? They have no education, no job skills and all they want is a free ride from the government. Most of them are criminals and pedophiles. If they can't get what they want in Canada they'll just come back here." Stunned by what he was saying and aware that I'd better not start a fight with him, I gently reminded him that anyone not deemed acceptable by the Canadian refugee revue board would be returned to their home country. He said, "I prefer the word 'deportation'. That sounds right to me. They all say they're leaving some kind of war. There's no war. You and I, we work for our living. Why should those people expect us to support them?". Then he told me of a case he knew about where an Olympic athlete had raped a child. I was getting anxious to leave, so I agreed that it was a horrible thing (relevance not withstanding). There was more to his rant but that's about the gist of it. Finally he handed me my passport and cheerfully wished me a good afternoon.
I got a little bit lost in Champlain village which delayed me again but I did make it to the border by 4:00. Unfortunately the bus had arrived early in Plattsburgh so I just missed the arrivals of people who wanted to cross. Paula, a freelance journalist was there as well as 2 Radio Canada journalists who are preparing a piece for Enquête. They told me that there were only about half a dozen people who crossed -- a Haitian, 2 Colombians and several people from different African countries. No children. A volunteer from Plattsburgh Cares arrived just as I was getting ready to leave so I had a nice chat with her.
Next time I will leave earlier to allow for early buses and obnoxious border guards. At least I know the route now!!
On my way back, the young Canadian border guard was very interested in what was going on at Roxham. He wondered what nationalities were coming through. He surely had a different take on refugees than the American guard did!
We arrived at the American side of Roxham at around 3:45 on a beautiful afternoon.
We noticed a masked woman on the Canadian side of the road and at first thought she was an RCMP officer and wondered why she was standing on the road and not by the facilities. We spoke with her and discovered that she was a journalist photographer for Reuters (from Montreal) who'd come to observe and take photos and had been there since 9:30 am. She had only seen three refugees crossing since that time. In 2019 or so she'd participated in a story about the Plattsburgh taxi drivers delivering refugee claimants to Roxham. We explained to her about Bridges not Borders' and Plattsburgh Cares' involvement over the past few years. She asked if we minded being photographed and we said ok.
At 4:05 pm a van arrived with a man and woman with a baby, another couple with no children and 2 other men. Some (or perhaps all) were from Haiti. They accepted some gloves and hats and the baby had 2 finger puppets. We were able to watch the couple with the baby being checked out as they were brought into a tented area attached to the RCMP building. Afterwards an RCMP officer told us that they had to take the hand-held items away from the family who were Covid positive. He acknowledged the helpful gesture but said that it only slowed down their process and was not useful, especially if there were longer lineups. He thought that we were American volunteers.
At 4:45 pm a black car with tinted windows swooped in and left, leaving a man wearing a t-shirt and jeans and carrying a small backpack. He barely looked at us and presented himself to an officer who asked him if he spoke English or French. He said Kurdish and Turkey and stepped towards the officer who arrested him. So while we were there, only 8 people crossed: 2 women, 5 men and one baby.
Before leaving I asked the photographer if an article would be published sometime and she said that Anna Maher of Reuters would be writing something that could be found on Tuesday (April 26th). It was a pleasant afternoon for us but I don't think the arriving refugees noticed!
The border visit reports are written by the volunteers who were at the border on that day.