April 3, 2017 – Immigration.ca Managing Partner Colin Singer says he expects the number of asylum claims at the Canadian border from Mexicans to carry on increasing now that the Canada visa requirement has been lifted.
Speaking to the Daily Beast, immigration lawyer Singer raised concerns that numbers like the 7,600 refugee claims that were seen in 2009 could return after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifted the requirement against official advice.
The first two months of 2017 saw 440 Mexicans detained at the Canada border, according to figures obtained by Reuters. That’s more than the 410 detentions in the whole of 2016.
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“We’re likely to go down the same path as before, which could create a problem for the current government,” Singer said. “That’s my hunch for what we’ll see once we have the numbers in hand.”
Foreigners are detained at the Canadian border if they are a flight risk once in the country, because of problems establishing identity, or if they are deemed a danger to the public.
“Red flags may come up, which may be indicative of whether or not they plan to remain in the country past authorization,” said immigration lawyer Singer.
“They may be given a voluntary departure or detained if unwilling to do so and they are deemed a flight risk or if it’s believed they may abscond and go underground.”
Donald Trump has set about his USA immigration crackdown since becoming president, forcing many Mexicans looking for a better life to switch focus to Canada.
Coming from a visa-exempt country, Mexicans now only need an Electronic Travel Authorization (Canada eTA) to come to Canada, obtainable online for a small fee.
It does not guarantee entry, as travellers can still be turned away on a case-by-case basis by border agents.
Further figures show more than 72,000 eTAs were issued to Mexicans between December 1, 2016 and March 10, 2017. Meanwhile, January 2017 saw 313 Mexicans rejected by airport border officials.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office says figures come from too short a time to identify a trend.
Canada has threatened to re-impose the visa restriction if it receives too many asylum claims, although it has not publicised any limit.
Government analysis says lifting the visa requirement will cost $433.5 million over the next decade, partly offset by an expected $171.6 million boost to the economy through increased tourism, investment and trade.
Canada has also promised to lift a visa requirement for Romanians and Bulgarians during 2017, as part of negotiations that saw the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) signed in late 2016.
The move came despite Canada saying they use reciprocity when setting visa requirements.
The European Union changed its rules in 2014, to state that any country awarded visa-free access to the bloc must grant the same privilege in return.
Affected countries including Canada and the U.S. were given two years to comply, which Canada did reluctantly after the issue became linked to the CETA deal.
Separately, Singer also called for Canada to suspends its participation in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., the accord which means a migrant must claim refugee status in their first country of arrival.
The agreement has come under the spotlight since Trump began his attempted USA immigration crackdown, with migrants preferring to risk the freezing conditions to cross the Canadian border illegally to avoid being turned away.
“The American refugee system is notorious for its flaws and perils,” Singer said.
“In theory the U.S. is supposed to have a fair system, but in practice you can see that Canada’s is much kinder, the hearings are timelier, and we have a lower volume of detentions, especially of the sort that separate families.”
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