The tragic deaths of a family of four who were found dead in the St Lawrence River near the US-Canada border last week have been linked to their impending deportation to Romania. Florin and Cristina Lordache, along with their two young children aged one and two, were among eight people who died while attempting to reach the US by boat from Canada. The family had been told they would be deported after their refugee claim was denied and subsequent immigration appeals were exhausted. Their lawyer, Peter Ivanyi, said the family were desperate to avoid returning to the poor living conditions experienced by Roma people in Romania.
The Akwesasne Mohawk community, whose lands stretch into the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario and the US state of New York, was where police found Florin with two Canadian passports belonging to the children. A second family of four, originally from India, were also among those who died. Authorities believe all were attempting illegal entry into the US from Canada.
The incident occurred just one week after the US and Canada announced the expansion of a border agreement known as the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which grants them the authority to expel asylum seekers who cross the nations’ shared border at unofficial points of entry. The STCA has been in place since 2004 and has forced asylum seekers to make claims for protection in the first country they arrive in – either the US or Canada, but not both. The expanded agreement closed a loophole in the STCA that previously allowed asylum seekers who crossed into Canada at unofficial points along the border to have their protection claims assessed once they were on Canadian soil.
Rights advocates have criticised the decision, saying it will not prevent people from seeking to cross but will only force them to take more dangerous routes. Amnesty International Canada and other rights groups are gathering outside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office in Montreal to denounce the expansion of the deal. They argue that it will push migrants to attempt more dangerous crossings into remote areas of Canada and, in some circumstances, force them to rely on smugglers to make the precarious journey.