The Immigration Minister says a recent drop in the number of border crossers is a credit to the government’s efforts to discourage would-be asylum seekers from crossing into Canada between official border posts.
Ahmed Hussen said there was a 27-per-cent decrease in border crossers from 2,560 in April to 1,869 in May. He said unofficial figures show the decrease has continued into June.
However, Mr. Hussen said the federal government will continue its outreach efforts in the United States to discourage “irregular migration,” given the unpredictable nature of migrant flows at the border. It’s unclear what the Trump administration’s new immigration policy, which forcibly separates migrant children from their parents, will mean for Canada, which experienced a massive surge in asylum seekers along the border following an immigration crackdown in the United States last year.
“I sincerely believe that our outreach and other efforts … are having an impact in terms of the drop in numbers, but we remain vigilant. We are not letting up on our efforts and we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Mr. Hussen said in an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail on Monday.
Last year, more than 20,000 asylum claimants – many of whom were Haitian – flooded the Canada-U.S. land border over fears they would be deported back to their home country under President Donald Trump’s plans to end their temporary protected status in the United States. In an attempt to control the surge in border crossers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government launched an outreach campaign in the United States to discourage potential asylum seekers from irregularly crossing into Canada.
However, a new group of asylum seekers started to cross the Canada-U.S. border this year: Nigerians, carrying valid U.S. visas. Mr. Hussen and his officials traveled to Nigeria in May to dispel “myths” about Canada’s asylum system and raise the visa problem with the U.S. embassy in the West African country.
While Mr. Hussen attributed the decline in border crossers to the government’s outreach program, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel warned against becoming complacent about the statistics. The number of border crossers has more than doubled since May, 2017, when 742 asylum seekers entered Canada between official ports of entry.
“That’s still a significant amount of people that are coming into the country by illegally crossing the border from the United States. That number should be closer to zero,” Ms. Rempel said.
Meanwhile, questions continue to swirl over how new U.S. immigration measures could affect Canada. Mr. Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy” has forcibly separated nearly 2,000 migrant children from their detained parents, according to Homeland Security statistics obtained by the Associated Press. Outrage over the policy is mounting around the globe, and on Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Trump administration to stop its “unconscionable” measures.
Ms. Rempel said the troubling reports out of the United States further underscore the need for a Canadian government plan to address the global migrant crisis. She questioned the Liberal government’s position on a major asylum-seeker agreement with the United States and, if it determines that the United States is no longer a safe country for refugees, to explain what the plan is to budget for the “enormous demand” that would be placed on Canada’s asylum system by another flood of border crossers.
The Safe Third Country Agreement requires both countries to refuse entry to asylum seekers who arrive at official border crossings, as both countries are considered safe for refugees. However, since the agreement applies only to people who arrive at official ports of entry, asylum seekers can avoid being turned away by crossing between border posts.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires the government to continually review all countries designated as safe third countries, including the United States, to ensure that the conditions that led to the designation are met.
In light of the new U.S. crackdown on migrants, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the need to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement is more evident than ever.
“I don’t think anybody with some understanding of the international laws and with a level of humanity will accept that the United States is a safe country for refugees,” she said.