Canada’s immigration minister has warned the Mexico visa requirement will be swiftly reinstated in the event of a flood of asylum requests.
With the existing visa requirement due to be lifted on December 1 and President-elect Donald Trump promising to instigate a crackdown on illegals in the U.S., there are fears Canada could see a spike in asylum claims from Mexicans.
But John McCallum says that even before Trump’s victory, Canada had been preparing for a possible increase in asylum claims – with the power to re-impose the restriction an important part of the original deal struck to lift the requirement.
McCallum says he hopes the time never comes, although the original visa restriction was imposed because of the number of claims being received by the Canadian government.
In announcing the lifting of the visa requirement on June 28, the Canadian government admitted it ignored the advice of its own officers against making the move.
McCallum said he had assessed the risks and they were outweighed by the benefits of increased trade and tourism. He said both Canadian and Mexican officials were working together to minimize the risks.
The visa requirement was imposed by the Conservatives in 2009 because of the overwhelming number of asylum claims from Mexico. The annual number of claims dropped from 9,000 to 1,199 as a result of the move, with associated costs falling from $304 million to $44 million.
However, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada estimates $465 million was lost as a result of the restriction.
Meanwhile, there are also fears Trump’s anti-immigration policies could force Mexicans already in the U.S. illegally to try and make the move north to Canada.
Experts say Mexicans who are used to the standard of living may choose to try Canada instead of return to their home country.
Since his election victory, Trump has vowed to deport or jail three million people who are in the U.S. illegally. On his plan to build a wall, the President-elect has suggested it may have to be just a fence in places.
It is not known exactly how many people per year make it across the U.S.-Canada border illegally, whether by boat, swimming or by land in remote areas. Figures show 487 were caught in 2011.
A far greater issue is created by those who come on the premise of a visit and never leave.
Foreigners are drawn to access the country illegally because they know children will be allowed to go to school and health emergencies will be treated whatever their status.
The website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada crashed on election night because of the sheer volume of Americans looking for a way out as Trump’s victory became clear.
But officials say there are no plans to increase staff to meet the increased demand.
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