March 13, 2018 – Canadian asylum claims received within the country and at legal border crossings shattered a two-decade record in 2017.
Figures show 49,775 claims were received last year, beating the previous high of 44,695 claims in 2001. Other high years include 2000 and 2008, which saw 37,845 and 36,920 claims respectively. Meanwhile, in 2013 the claim number was as low as 10,380.
The 2017 number saw 20,600 claims received at border checkpoints, with the remaining claims coming from within Canada. There was also a marked increase in illegal border crossings in 2017, particularly over the Quebec border, as immigrants afraid of losing their status in the U.S. flooded into Canada.
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The illegal crossings were as a result of the Safe Third Country Agreement, which meant asylum seekers from the U.S. would be turned away if they tried to enter Canada at a recognized border crossing point.
The federal government says that less than 10 per cent of the thousands of asylum seekers from Haiti have been permitted to file claims. Yet, there is no clear data on the number of refugees who may have left Canada voluntarily or those who were deported.
Furthermore, 2018 is shaping up to be an even more challenging year for the RCMP and the Immigration and Refugee Board., which handles asylum hearings. With around 200,000 El Salvadorians and 86,000 citizens of Honduras losing their TPS status in 2018, the number of illegal border crossings, as well as legal claims, could rise.
Government efforts to tackle the problem have centred around an information campaign. Several Liberal MPs have toured the U.S. to communicate Canada’s asylum policies and to deter foreign communities from presuming they will not be deported.
While the government was caught off guard in 2017, it remains to be seen whether the combination of greater awareness and more efficient processing will help bring asylum claims numbers under control in 2018.
Irregular Canada-U.S. border crossings have dropped according to the latest monthly 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 illegally 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.
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