New Brunswick saw spike in refugee claimants at U.S. bor­der in 2016

Cape Breton Post - - ATLANTIC -

The num­ber of refugee claimants cross­ing into New Brunswick from the United States saw a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease last year.

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased by the Cana­dian Bor­der Ser­vices Agency, there were 23 refugee claimants at the bor­der in 2016 _ more than the pre­vi­ous four years com­bined.

The num­bers in­clude those seek­ing asy­lum at of­fi­cial points of en­try, and those stopped by po­lice af­ter cross­ing in re­mote lo­ca­tions.

There were seven refugee claimants in each year be­tween 2011 and 2013, four in 2014 and only two in 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to the bor­der agency, there was one refugee claimant at the New Brunswick bor­der last month.

“The driv­ing force be­hind a lot of peo­ple com­ing to Canada _ ei­ther im­mi­grat­ing through es­tab­lished streams of com­ing as refugees _ is that they want a safe place to live and raise their fam­ily,’’ said Alex LeBlanc, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the New Brunswick Mul­ti­cul­tural Coun­cil.

LeBlanc said he’s at a loss to ex­plain the spike in the num­bers last year.

A grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple are choos­ing to walk across the bor­der into Canada to claim refugee sta­tus, in­clud­ing dozens who have been ar­rested in the Emer­son area of Man­i­toba in re­cent weeks. Other prov­inces in­clud­ing Que­bec have also seen a large rise in the num­ber of refugee claimants who en­ter the prov­ince il­le­gally.

The tac­tic is a way to avoid the Canada- U. S. Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment, which pre­vents most peo­ple who have been liv­ing in the United States from mak­ing a refugee claim at an of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ing on the premise that they are al­ready some­where safe.

This has prompted some peo­ple to cross else­where in or­der to make their claims from within Canada, where au­thor­i­ties gen­er­ally grant them a hear­ing.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions staff at the Cana­dian Bor­der Ser­vices Agency would not spec­u­late if Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and vic­tory in the U.S. has had any im­pact on the num­bers.

They de­clined an in­ter­view and would not pro­vide a break­down of the num­bers to show how many peo­ple claimed refugee sta­tus at rec­og­nized bor­der points and those stopped by the RCMP at re­mote lo­ca­tions.

“Should a per­son be in­ter­cepted en­ter­ing Canada be­tween a port of en­try, the RCMP will re­turn that per­son to a port of en­try for screen­ing by bor­der ser­vices of­fi­cers. The sta­tis­tics pro­vided to you in­cluded all refugee claims pro­cessed at land ports of en­try, in­clud­ing those in­ter­cepted by the RCMP be­tween des­ig­nated bor­der cross­ings. We do not break these sta­tis­tics down fur­ther,’’ they said in an email.

LeBlanc said he’s alarmed that peo­ple are risk­ing their lives to cross the bor­der in re­mote ar­eas and in bad weather, but he un­der­stands why some have de­cided to flee the United States.

“I think there is le­git­i­mate cause for con­cern for peo­ple liv­ing in the U. S. and could see de­por­ta­tion to un­safe en­vi­ron­ments in their home coun­tries,’’ he said.

LeBlanc said he’s un­aware of any­one who has crossed into New Brunswick in a re­mote lo­ca­tion.

Two Con­ser­va­tive MPs have called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to stop the flow of peo­ple il­le­gally cross­ing the United States bor­der into Canada.

Michelle Rem­pel and Tony Cle­ment tweeted on Sun­day that il­le­gal cross­ings are un­safe and place a bur­den on lo­cal law en­force­ment.

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