March 2, 2018 – Irregular Canada-U.S. border crossings by potential asylum seekers have dropped according to the latest figures, but the numbers remain above 1,500 per month.
The latest figures for January saw 1,517 people stopped as they crossed the border illegally, the overwhelming majority into Quebec (1,458).
The numbers are down significantly on December, which saw 1,978 crossings.
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Canadian officials are hoping an information campaign will stem the flow of asylum seekers from the U.S., as Donald Trump’s administration cracks down on the special status afforded many different nationality groups.
Figures show Canada’s RCMP intercepted nearly 21,000 asylum seekers crossing between legal border points in 2017.
The numbers peaked overwhelmingly in July and August, which saw 3,134 and 5,712 interceptions respectively.
Provincially, border crossings into Quebec dominated the figures, with 18,836 out of the 20,563 total interceptions made in the French-speaking province. Manitoba saw the second-most interceptions, at just 1,018 people.
Ottawa is preparing for a potential new influx of Canada asylum seekers triggered by the Trump administration removing special status for 300,000 Central Americans and Haitians in the U.S.
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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it will end Temporary Protected Status for Nicaraguans in January 2019, who the same special status for Hondurans could end in July 2018 following a recent extension.
These two groups alone would see nearly 60,000 people lose their status in the U.S.
Some experts are convinced Canada will at least see another uptick in border crossings, possibly at the levels seen in Quebec in 2017.
Numbers spiked to 300 a day during July and August, from the normal 20 to 30, forcing a makeshift border camp to be set up to process claimants.
Meanwhile, locations including Montreal’s Olympic Stadium were used as temporary shelter for the illegal border crossers.
Some 40,000 extra asylum cases were expected to be registered with Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board in 2017, which has the capacity to hear 24,000 cases per year and already has a backlog of 40,000.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale were grilled on the situation by the federal government Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in October 2017.
Hussen insisted the situation did not reach crisis point, while Goodale was adamant security was not compromised because of the increased case load.
The government information campaign combined with the start of the school year, is believed to be behind the dramatic reduction in numbers. Parents, no matter what their background, are always reluctant to move their children during the school year. It will also support the argument that the majority of current asylum seekers are in fact economic queue jumpers, seeking a faster entry into Canada.
A federal-provincial taskforce was formed in response to the situation, including Hussen, Goodale and Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil.
Safe Third Country Agreement
There have been several calls for Canada to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., which says an asylum seeker must make their claim in the first country to which they arrive. The agreement is the reason why those coming from the U.S. are electing to cross the border at remote locations, with the aim of getting arrested and entering the Canadian immigration system. Such individuals would otherwise not qualify to submit a claim as the Safe Third Country Agreement would prevent them from doing so.
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