REFUGEE RISE

De­spite Man­i­toba con­cerns, im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter not con­vinced of an asy­lum trend

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE -

De­spite Man­i­toba con­cerns, im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter not con­vinced of an asy­lum trend.

Canada’s im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter says he’s not yet con­vinced a re­cent in­crease in the num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers cross­ing the border il­le­gally from the United States con­sti­tutes a grow­ing trend, de­spite con­cerns raised by Man­i­toba that the sit­u­a­tion may be get­ting out of hand.

In the days and weeks that fol­lowed a move by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to ban trav­ellers from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity en­ter­ing the U.S., Canada has seen an in­crease in the num­ber of refugee claimants walk­ing across the border to re­quest asy­lum.

Man­i­toba Pre­mier Brian Pal­lis­ter has ex­pressed wor­ries that those num­bers could rise fur­ther as the weather be­comes warmer, and has called on Ot­tawa to pro­vide more help in deal­ing with the in­flux.

For now, Ot­tawa is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion, but it’s still too early to say whether even more asy­lum seek­ers will con­tinue walk­ing over Canada’s doorstep, Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen said in an in­ter­view aired Sun­day on CTV’s “Ques­tion Pe­riod.”

“We need to see what hap­pens over the next lit­tle while to see if this is a trend,’’ Hussen told CTV’s Evan Solomon.

“We can’t re­ally de­ter­mine that this is a trend mov­ing for­ward.’’

The RCMP, the Canada Border Ser­vices Agency and pub­lic safety of­fi­cials are an­a­lyz­ing the in­flux, added Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale, who said most of the asy­lum seek­ers in­tended to even­tu­ally end up in Canada, rather than the U.S.

“The vast ma­jor­ity . . . are ac­tu­ally tran­sit­ing through the United States,’’ Goodale said in an in­ter­view on Global TV’s “The West Block.”

“Their plan was not orig­i­nally to be in the United States, but to come through the United States.’’

But the min­is­ter couldn’t say why peo­ple are choos­ing to cross il­le­gally from the U.S. if their goal was al­ways to end up on Cana­dian soil or else­where.

Un­der the Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment be­tween Canada and the U.S., refugee claimants in one coun­try can’t make the same claim on the other side of the border. But that only ap­plies when they make claims at of­fi­cial border cross­ings.

If asy­lum seek­ers reach Cana­dian ter­ri­tory, they are en­ti­tled to go through a claims process af­ter be­ing ar­rested be­cause Canada is a sig­na­tory of the UN Refugee Con­ven­tion.

Should their claim be re­jected, they could be re­turned to their coun­try of cit­i­zen­ship.

The risks of cross­ing il­le­gally, high­lighted by two claimants from Ghana who had their fin­gers am­pu­tated af­ter suf­fer­ing se­vere frost­bite as they crossed into Canada, have led the fed­eral New Democrats and some refugee ad­vo­cates to call on the gov­ern­ment to sus­pend the agree­ment.

But Hussen noted the U.S. asy­lum sys­tem is mon­i­tored by Amer­i­can courts and has no bear­ing on gov­ern­ment-re­set­tled refugees.

For­mer Con­ser­va­tive im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter Ja­son Ken­ney agreed, call­ing the U.S. sys­tem “fair, just (and) in­de­pen­dent.’’

Still, the ex­emp­tion that al­lows peo­ple to en­ter Canada il­le­gally to make a refugee claim is a loop­hole that should be closed, Ken­ney told CTV.

The loop­hole is pro­vid­ing an in­cen­tive for peo­ple to come in il­le­gally and dan­ger­ously,” said Ken­ney, who is seek­ing to lead Al­berta’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party.

“We want reg­u­lar, safe, le­gal mi­gra­tion, not un­safe il­le­gal mi­gra­tion.’’

CP PHOTO

Early Sun­day morn­ing, eight mi­grants from So­ma­lia cross into Canada il­le­gally from the United States by walk­ing down this train track into the town of Emer­son, Man., where they will seek asy­lum at Canada Border Ser­vices Agency.

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