Asylum Application Numbers Vastly Surpassing Previous Years
Tightening security around U.S. borders is leading to a massive influx of asylum seekers flooding to Canada seeking refuge, making Canada the ninth-largest recipient of asylum seekers in the world in 2017.
A new report from the United Nations Refugee Agency shows that there were a record 68.5 million people displaced last year, and tens of thousands of these refugees are making their way to Canada.
The number of asylum seekers arrested at the Canadian border has more than doubled from the numbers recorded for the same period last year, and officials at the Canadian border are expecting upwards of 400 people crossing into Quebec daily this summer.
Why are some asylum seekers choosing Canada over the U.S.?
Immigration policies under the Trump administration include a zero-tolerance policy for anyone entering the U.S. illegally, leading to reports of children being separated from their parents and detained while their parents are charged.
Some refugees fleeing Nigeria or Haiti fear that Trump’s policies towards refugees will make it difficult for them to stay in the U.S., so they’re heading for Canada instead where immigration lawyers say it is easier to obtain refugee status.
How are asylum seekers crossing into Canada?
Asylum seekers are obtaining tourist visas, staying for a few days in the U.S., and then making their way across the Canadian border.
Most asylum seekers crossing into Canada from the U.S. do so from New York State where they take Greyhound buses and then taxis to the border with Quebec where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police await them to arrest them.
According to the Third Safe Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S., asylum seekers must claim refuge in the first country they step foot in unless they qualify for a number of narrow exceptions. For those who are coming from the U.S. to Canada, their first country was the U.S. so if they try to go through a regular border crossing into Canada, they will be turned away.
If asylum seekers go to an irregular crossing, they will be arrested and, in most cases, allowed to stay in Canada following a security screening until they have a refugee hearing.
How is the Canadian government responding?
Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, travelled to Nigeria in May to speak to officials about the influx.
The federal government has also committed $173.2 million over two years to strengthen border security and accelerate the processing of asylum claimants arriving this year.
The Canadian government says it is looking to protect its borders while still adhering to international conventions regarding the rights of refugees.
"Coming across the border in a way that seeks to circumvent our procedures is no free ticket to Canada," Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said in a statement in May. “We will continue to ensure an orderly managed border, including the compassionate treatment of those who genuinely need Canada's protection. And we will continue to work with the United States to deter the misuse of travel documents that has helped drive the influx," he added.