Canada ends controversial policy blocking refugees from U.S. border crossing

TORONTO — Canada said Saturday it was ending a policy that turned back asylum-seekers at its land border between Quebec and New York state.

The policy, which came into effect last year, stated asylum-seekers were only welcome if they crossed into Canada from Quebec at the land border crossing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.

But under the policy, migrants were allowed to move to the nearest Canada-U.S. border crossing in Hemmingford, Quebec, which is well over 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the land border crossing at Lacolle. That’s nearly three-and-a-half times further south than the closest crossing to the border in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

As a result, large numbers of asylum-seekers sought to use this second crossing.

Under the policy, the vast majority of asylum-seekers were turned away at the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing, while those who made it to Hemmingford were allowed to apply for asylum in Canada.

The policy, the first since the North American Free Trade Agreement was agreed between the United States, Canada and Mexico, was implemented amid fear of the U.S. government potentially denying asylum-seekers.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed the United States to tighten its immigration policies, while Canada has defended itself against criticism that its treatment of asylum-seekers has been unfair.

Canada ended the policy at 10 a.m. Saturday, according to an official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the announcement is in the final stage.

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