Warm weather could increase illegal border crossings in Canada

Officials in Canada braced for another spike in illegal border crossings

Border officials are preparing for another spike in asylum seekers coming illegally into Canada from the U.S. as the weather gets warmer.

The RCMP intercepted more than 3,000 irregular border-crossers in January and February, part of a total number of 7,800 asylum seekers processed by the federal immigration department and the Canada Border Services Agency during the same time period.

RELATED: Senators fear legal pot will hike number of Canadians barred entry to U.S.

Those figures don’t include more than 600 additional arrivals who entered the country illegally through Quebec over the Easter weekend.

Officials are expecting those numbers to continue to grow as temperatures rise. Immigration and CBSA officials have been preparing for the influx after getting caught flat-footed last summer dealing with an unexpected surge in mainly Haitian migrants entering Canada through Ontario and Quebec.

“Canada is an open and welcoming country to those in need of protection, but our government is committed to orderly migration to protect Canadians and our immigration system. Our government is prepared for any future fluctuations,” said Mathieu Genest, press secretary for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Many of the most recent migrants crossing illegally into Canada are Nigerian, which suggests word-of-mouth about Canada as a safe haven for asylum seekers has continued to spread despite Canadian efforts to counter it. A number of Liberal MPs headed south last year in an effort to warn would-be travellers against making the trip.

In any event, if more migrants continue to arrive, border officials will be ready, Genest said Friday. “We have worked with various departments, provinces and settlement organizations to develop a national operations plan to manage possible scenarios at the border.”

The Liberal government has also committed $74 million to help address lengthy backlogs in processing refugee claims at the Immigration and Refugee Board. The department has also cut work-permit wait times for asylum seekers from three months to three weeks and issued more than 12,000 work permits to asylum seekers in Quebec.

RELATED: Trump directs troops deployed to border

But the Canadian Council for Refugees says it is concerned about vulnerable migrants being exploited by scammers who offer to help them cross the border for a hefty fee.

“People pay up large amounts of money, get to Canada, find out that they’re making a refugee claim … and find out they’ve been lied to by the scammers,” said executive director Janet Dench. “That sort of thing happens quite regularly.”

The council has been calling for the government to suspend the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which has been cited as a major factor in the spike of irregular border crossings.

The agreement makes it impossible for would-be refugees arriving from the U.S. to claim asylum at an official port of entry to Canada. They can only make such a claim from inside the country, prompting thousands to make the crossing on foot through unofficial entry points.

Suspending the agreement would all but eliminate irregular crossings and make migrant refugees less vulnerable to scammers, Dench said.

“There’s this whole charade that people have to go through in order to make a claim in Canada, which would be completely unnecessary if Canada would simply say, ‘We will suspend the safe third country agreement,’ and then people could apply in a regular way.”

But the government has made it clear no such changes will be forthcoming.

“The safe third country agreement is an important tool used by Canada and the U.S. to co-operate on the orderly handling of refugee claims. It is a vital component of our well-managed immigration system,” Genest said.

Last year, more than 50,000 asylum claims were processed by immigration and CBSA, more than twice the number processed every year prior since 2011.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Faulty transmission line in Campbell River caused loud noise, flickering lights, says BC Hydro

Natural gas power plant went offline following BC Hydro equipment failure

Divers bring up more tires, crab traps and old bottles from the water

For the first five years of its annual clean-up of the waters… Continue reading

May thinks time is right for Greens to make gains

Green Party leader in Campbell River for event with local candidate Mark de Bruijn

Strathcona Regional District looking at pay hikes for board members

The Strathcona Regional District board is planning on a pay raise. At… Continue reading

City still fighting for long-term plan for Snowden

Another letter from the province without ‘tangible response’ spurs mayor to request in-person meeting

The good, bad and the unknown of Apple’s new services

The announcements lacked some key details, such as pricing of the TV service

SPCA seizes 54 animals from Vernon property

Animals weren’t receiving adequate care

Morneau unveils principles for Indigenous ownership in Trans Mountain pipeline

The controversial pipeline was bought by Ottawa last year

Refugee who sheltered Edward Snowden in Hong Kong arrives in Canada

Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter Keana arrived in Toronto this week

New UMSCA trade deal getting a boost from Trump, business groups

The trade deal is designed to supplant the North American Free Trade Agreement

Trudeau says he, Wilson-Raybould had cordial conversation last week

Trudeau denies anything improper occurred regarding SNC-Lavalin and the PMO

SNC-Lavalin backtracks on CEO’s comments surrounding potential job losses

Top boss had said protecting 9,000 jobs should grant leniency

Vancouver Island home to B.C.’s luckiest lotto store

Five million-dollar winners bought tickets from same Port Alberni corner store

Video of ‘brutal, shocking and chilling execution’ opens Vancouver Island murder hearing

Sentencing underway for Brandon Woody after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in Nanaimo

Most Read