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Asylum seekers board a shuttle bus after being processed by the RCMP at the Canada-U.S. border on Roxham Road in Hemmingford, Que., on Jan. 14.Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, facing calls to shut down the unofficial border at Roxham Road in Quebec, says his government is working to close it through talks with the United States.

Because Roxham Road is not an official border crossing, it is not covered by the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement under which migrants seeking refugee status must do so in the first country they arrive in. The agreement means they can be turned away at official land entries, but not unofficial ones.

The path, between Quebec and New York State, has allowed tens of thousands of refugees to enter Canada, and caused a dispute between the province and the federal government.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said talks on the issue are focused on the agreement, but he declined to get into specifics.

“There are continually ongoing conversations about how we can ensure that it’s not beneficial for people to try and cross the border at great personal expense, at great personal risk, in some cases, to try and get into Canada,” he said in Richmond Hill, Ont.

David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, said Wednesday that talks on migration at unofficial crossings between Canada and the United States need to focus on much larger issues than Roxham Road.

“This is an immensely complex subject on which the United States and Canada continue to engage in conversations with a focus on addressing the underlying causes of irregular migration and to prioritize orderly and safe migration through regular pathways,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement provided to The Globe and Mail.

“Roxham Road is a symptom of this larger problem – our focus is on the larger, more complex issues.”

The issue appears likely to be in play next month when U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to make his first official visit to Canada.

Quebec Premier François Legault and Official Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre, this week, called for Mr. Trudeau to quickly close Roxham Road.

In a column in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Legault said Mr. Trudeau was generous in 2017 by inviting those fleeing persecution, terror and war to come to Canada, but the number of asylum seekers has exploded as a result. He said Quebec’s capacity to take care of asylum seekers has now been exceeded.

On Tuesday, Mr. Poilievre told a news conference on Parliament Hill that Mr. Trudeau should close Roxham Road within 30 days.

François Legault: It’s time to close the breach at Roxham Road and enforce Canada’s borders

Mr. Trudeau, on Wednesday, rejected the Conservative Leader’s demand.

“Could someone put up barricades and a big wall? Yes. If Pierre Poilievre wants to build a wall at Roxham Road, someone could do that,” he said, adding the result would be people crossing elsewhere.

“The only way to effectively shut down not just Roxham Road, but the entire border to these irregular crossings is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is serious work that we are doing as a government right now,” he said, rejecting “simplistic solutions.”

Christina Clark-Kazak, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, said Canada could close Roxham Road without negotiating with the United States because it is within Canadian territory and not an official crossing.

“The best path forward is to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement. It has already been found to be unconstitutional and the appeal is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada,” she wrote.

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