Man­i­toba calls on feds for refugee help

Premier seeks co-or­di­na­tion with Ot­tawa as bor­der cross­ings surge

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - STEVE LAM­BERT

WIN­NIPEG — The fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments need to co-or­di­nate their ap­proach to the grow­ing num­ber of asy­lum-seek­ers cross­ing the bor­der be­cause all signs from the United States sug­gest the is­sue is not go­ing away, says Man­i­toba’s premier.

“With the United States ap­proach, and the United States new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach on is­sues re­lated to refugees — and to im­mi­gra­tion gen­er­ally — there are con­di­tions that would lead, I think, most peo­ple to con­clude this will be an on­go­ing challenge,” Brian Pal­lis­ter said Tues­day.

“We have a let­ter go­ing out with spe­cific is­sues that we would like to see the fed­eral govern­ment co-op­er­a­tively address, and I have a call lined up later this week with other pre­miers to dis­cuss the is­sue and co-or­di­nate our ap­proaches in re­spect of where we go from here.”

Pal­lis­ter’s of­fice later clar­i­fied that his calls with other pre­miers will be one-by-one and not a con­fer­ence call.

The num­ber of peo­ple flee­ing the United States, largely from African coun­tries orig­i­nally, has jumped in re­cent weeks, fol­low­ing planned crack­downs on im­mi­gra­tion in the U.S. The refugees have been cross­ing fields and ditches near bor­der com­mu­ni­ties such as Emer­son-Franklin, Man., and Hem­ming­ford, Que.

The tac­tic is a way to get around the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment, which re­quires any­one who has al­ready ap­plied for refugee sta­tus in the U.S. to be turned away at an of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ing in Canada. If a per­son crosses some­where else and gets ap­pre­hended on Cana­dian soil, they can ap­ply as a refugee and the case is heard by Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties.

Some im­mi­gra­tion lawyers and politi­cians want Canada to change the agree­ment so that peo­ple can turn them­selves in at of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings and still get their refugee claim heard.

The reeve of Emer­son-Franklin, Greg Janzen, said Tues­day the idea would in­crease safety for his com­mu­nity’s res­i­dents and for the refugees, who have been mak­ing long cross­ings on foot in the dead of win­ter.

“I would like to see some­thing changed and get some or­der to this chaos that’s go­ing on,” Janzen said.

“Let them walk up to the port of en­try. Will that bring more peo­ple? Yes. But at least it will be in an or­ga­nized man­ner.”

Pal­lis­ter was non-com­mit­tal on the is­sue.

He said there are ar­gu­ments for and against chang­ing the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment.

In Ot­tawa, fed­eral Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen said he sees no need to change the agree­ment, be­cause the United States was still liv­ing up to its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions in deal­ing with asy­lum-seek­ers.

“As far as we’re con­cerned, some­one in the United States can still make a cred­i­ble asy­lum claim through their sys­tem,” Hussen told re­porters.

Pal­lis­ter would not spec­ify what he is seek­ing from the fed­eral govern­ment.

He said he is putting those de­tails in a let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.

“I think we have to have the di­a­logue (first) and we should en­deav­our to do that co-op­er­a­tively with the fed­eral govern­ment.”

ADRIAN WYLD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen says he sees no need to change the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment, which keeps U.S. asy­lum seek­ers from en­ter­ing Canada at bor­der cross­ings.

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