STANSTEAD, QC - In a press release dated Oct. 19, the offices of NDP (New Democratic Party) Members of Parliament, Jean Rousseau (Compton-Stanstead) and Pierre Jacob (Brome-Missisquoi), stated that there is evidence of human smuggling going on across the Stanstead border, coming from the United States and entering Canada. The two took this position after obtaining a document from the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) through the Information Act.
According to Rousseau and Jacob, who cite the document in their statement, “A significant number of illegal entries are connected with human trafficking or with people claiming refugee status, wrote the police force.” Also mentioned in the document authored by the RCMP, the crossings were made mainly via Church Street in Derby Line, VT, and Stanstead, QC.
Another statement by the RCMP in the document reveals how many refugees are crossing illegally and how these refugees are getting across.
“As we know well, the figure jumped to more than 300 in just the first few months of 2012. The closure of Church Street has done nothing to change the situation, as illegal entries in the last few days have shown. As early as this (Friday Oct 19) morning, 11 clandestine immigrants were intercepted in Magog. They crossed the border without anyone at the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) even noticing.”
Further on, Rousseau concluded that, “The document shows that the RCMP knows that there is a human trafficking system in place at Stanstead. Runners are at work there. Thankfully, once they have crossed the border, immigrants ask to see the authorities to place official asylum requests.” But there is a reason why these “immigrants” cross illegally “without anyone at CBSA even noticing.”
In an interview on Oct 11, Paul Tear of the Memphrémagog police force spoke to The Record about the possibility of an organization behind the recent 17 Romanians who crossed the border on Oct. 11. Tear could not confirm whether there was human trafficking going on at that time, but he did say that, with some of the cases in the past, American drivers were involved.
“We do not know at this time if these (Romanians) people had a paid driver or it was just one of them driving the rented vehicle; that still has to be determined. But we know from experience that sometimes it is an American driving these people across the border. In this case, we can say that all the people were of Romanian origin.” But when Tear was asked if there was any evidence that might prove that an organization is behind this border crossing (because both groups were of Romanian origin and involved people coming from the U.S), Tear stated that the evidence does not point in that direction, and he would not speculate on that either.
In a telephone interview on Friday Oct 19, Jacqueline Roby, Public Relations Officer for the Canadian Border Crossing Agency in Montreal, stated that there were actually 12 refugees that were reported that day (from the Stanstead office), and this was confirmed with a follow up interview with Dominique McNeely from the Montreal office of the Canadian Border Crossing Agency. In addition, Roby stated that to date (since Jan. 2012) there have been 256 refugee status requests at the Stanstead border alone, and a total of 3,000 for the province during that same period.
According to McNeely, all applicants remain on Canadian soil until a decision is made by the Immigration and Refugee Board in Montreal. The response to the applications vary in length, and it could be months or even years in some cases before these refugees get a response, but they are under the responsibility of the province of Quebec until a decision is made.
When asked why most of the refugees coming across the border stop in Magog, Tear stated that it might be because Magog is the first large town that these individuals see. However, after discussing the issue with Roby, another possibility has to be considered: how the international law on refugee status provides for people seeking asylum.
According to Roby, if the refugees enter Canada (via Quebec) without being noticed at the border (as is the case in Stanstead), they are automatically allowed under international law to apply for refugee status and to remain in Quebec until a decision is made, if they are officially recognized as a refugee and not as a tourist. The refugees need an official (i..e the Magog police) to take them back to the border to apply for “refugee” status. It is here that the Magog police hand them over to the RCMP, who in turn hand them over to the Canadian Border Crossing Agency at Stanstead to take part in immigration control interviews, instead of returning them to the United States.
Other evidence shows that these refugees, after making it across the border without being noticed, head for Magog in order to be taken back officially, since they are then on Canadian soil and not in the States. This is important because, while on U.S. soil, the refugee, according to international law, can be turned back to the country of origin at the border. On the U.S. side of the border – and if the refugee arrives on American soil as a tourist – the U.S. government would not allow refugee status.