September 12, 2017 – Canada’s federal immigration authorities has ramped up its information campaign in the U.S. to curtail the flow of asylum seekers illegally crossing the Canada-U.S. border. By all accounts its efforts are succeeding.
Thousands of Haitians have poured across the Quebec border in recent months, apparently believing they would be welcomed by Canadian authorities and allowed to stay permanently.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen had to take action to warn would-be asylum seekers they would join the same queue as every other candidate upon arrival. Many of the Haitians who crossed into Canada since the start of July face deportation to their home country, Canadian officials have warned.
Canadian consulates across the U.S. were urged to deliver this message loud and clear to anyone thinking of crossing the Canadian border.
As the message gradually took hold, the numbers of asylum seekers began to dwindle, and now Canada wants to make sure the situation does not repeat itself with another U.S. community. The outreach effort will also target Canadian communities described as ‘multilingual’, according to Hursh Jaswal, a spokesman for Hussen’s office.
A statement from Jaswal said: “We are taking a number of pro-active measures – both in Canada and abroad – to counter misinformation that has been circulating and ensure that everyone is aware of the facts about Canada’s asylum system.”
U.S. Ends Special Status
Nearly 7,000 mainly-Haitian asylum seekers crossed into Quebec from the U.S. in July and the first half of August. The stream of illegal border crossings came after U.S. President Donald Trump suggested he would end a program that granted Haitians special status following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country. But the group apparently did not appreciate that Canada had ended its own special status program for Haitians in 2016.
The U.S. affords the same special status for citizens of a further nine countries, namely El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump is set to end special status for citizens of all nine countries, as well as Haiti, which could mean a further stream of people crossing the Canadian border.
Canada knows it needs to get the message out to all of these groups that they will not automatically received residency here. In particular, there are 260,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. who are due to lose their special status in March 2018. Together with the 800,000 left in limbo over Trump’s move to end protection for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and Canada’s need to get the correct information out there becomes even more apparent.
Stream Reduced to A Trickle
The stream of asylum crossing the Quebec border has reduced to a trickle in September, with under 50 per day now arriving after numbers peaked in the several hundreds during July and August.
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.
Government numbers show nearly 7,000 people crossed the Quebec border in July and early August, with 2,700 of them under 18.
Several temporary shelters were set up for newcomers, including one in Cornwall, Ontario, near the Quebec border. Others included Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, an old hospital and a school. A makeshift border camp was also set up by the Canadian army to act as an initial processing centre.
A federal-provincial taskforce was formed in response to the situation, including federal Immigration Minister 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.