September 6, 2017 -Would-be Canada asylum seekers in the U.S. appear to be getting the message that they are no guarantees of a new life north of the border.
The stream of people crossing the Quebec border has reduced to a trickle recently, with under 50 per day now arriving after numbers peaked in the several hundreds during July and August.
An information campaign warned potential newcomers they would receive no special treatment in Canada, and a long time spent in the U.S. would count against any Canadian immigration application.
This, 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.
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Government numbers show nearly 7,000 people crossed the Quebec border in July and early August, with 2,700 of them under 18.
The vast majority are Haitians, following a Donald Trump threat to remove the special status they were afforded in the wake of a devastating 2010 earthquake. The country was also hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, damaging crops and leaving many starving, and is currently battling a cholera epidemic.
Tens of thousands of Haitians have reacted by leaving the country in search of a better life, with some 40,000 said to have made their way to the U.S.
Canada’s 13 consulates across the U.S. have been mobilised to disseminate this information to anyone looking to come here. Asylum seekers, whatever their nationality, will be arrested, facing security screening and then face a hearing, as per the Canada immigration system. Many will not be given refugee status, and face being deported to their home countries.
Several temporary shelters have been set up for newcomers, including one in Cornwall, Ontario, near the Quebec border. Others include Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, an old hospital and a school. A makeshift border camp has also been set up by the Canadian army to act as an initial processing centre.
A federal-provincial taskforce has also been formed, including federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weill and Ralph Goodale, federal Minister of Public Safety.
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 having to cross the border at remote locations, with the aim of getting arrested and entering the Canadian immigration system.
However, with negotiations currently ongoing for the renegotiation of NAFTA, Canada will not want to do anything to harm its bargaining position.
Although the numbers show a marked increase, they are low when compared to the migrant crisis facing Europe. Italy received nearly 11,500 asylum seekers in July, down from more than 23,500 in June. Meanwhile, Germany has 250,000 asylum cases pending compared to 21,000 in Canada. Spain and its territories have received nearly 13,000 asylum seekers so far in 2017.
Not Afraid to Deport
Canada has shown it will deport asylum seekers who do not meet the requirements of the immigration system.
Deportation of Mexicans has risen sharply since Canada’s move to withdraw a visa restriction on travellers from America’s southern neighbour.
Source: Government of Canada
Figures show 66 per cent more Mexicans have been deported so far in 2017 compared to the total figure for 2016.
Canada’s visa requirement for Mexican nationals was withdrawn as of December 1, 2016, allowing travellers by air to enter the country with only an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
Canada has threatened to re-impose the visa restriction if it receives too many asylum claims, although it has not publicised any limit. It has been reported that 3,000 claims in 2017 would see the policy reviewed.
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