Canada sees slow­ing of im­mi­grant flow

Gulf Times - - AMERICAS -

The in­flux of asy­lum­seek­ers that threw Canada’s refugee sys­tem into dis­ar­ray slowed in June af­ter also fall­ing in May, the first two-month de­cline since the wave ramped up last year, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures from gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and bor­der agents.

The de­crease could ease pres­sure on agen­cies aid­ing refugees and on Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment, which has come un­der fire for its man­age­ment of the asy­lum seeker is­sue.

The num­ber of peo­ple il­le­gally cross­ing the Canada-US bor­der to claim asy­lum in Canada dropped to 1,869 in May, down about 27% from the prior month, ac­cord­ing to the im­mi­gra­tion and refugee min­istry.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures for June are due out mid-month but a spokesman for Im­mi­gra­tion and Refugee Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen con­firmed that they have dropped again, de­fy­ing ex­pec­ta­tions that warmer weather would lead to more peo­ple cross­ing the bor­der.

Refugee claimants and lawyers in Canada and Nige­ria said the drop may be due in part to a US crack­down on Nige­rian trav­ellers at Canada’s re­quest.

One La­gos-based lawyer told Reuters that US visa of­fi­cials are be­ing more strin­gent with visas, adding that he has re­ceived calls from Nige­ri­ans who were turned back at air­ports de­spite hav­ing valid travel doc­u­ments.

Since Jan­uary 2017, more than 30,000 peo­ple have come over the Canada-US bor­der to file refugee claims in Canada, many of them telling Reuters that they crossed be­cause they did not feel safe pur­su­ing refugee claims in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s United States.

Over the past month, an av­er­age of about 40 asy­lum­seek­ers a day have been cross­ing at Rox­ham Road in Que­bec, where the vast ma­jor­ity of bor­der-crossers en­ter Canada.

That is down from as high as 200 a day, ac­cord­ing to JeanPierre Fortin, a spokesman for the union rep­re­sent­ing Canada’s Bor­der Ser­vices Agency who got the fig­ures from his mem­bers’ counts.

Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures, the daily April av­er­age was 85.

The num­ber of new clients at Que­bec’s gov­ern­ment refugee agency that helps with food and hous­ing more than halved be­tween April and June, to just over 1,000 peo­ple last month – the low­est point since June 2017, ac­cord­ing to the agency.

Canada and the United States have an agree­ment un­der which asy­lum-seek­ers who try to cross at for­mal ports of en­try are turned around and told to ap­ply in the first coun­try they ar­rived in.

Peo­ple have crossed il­le­gally be­tween those for­mal cross­ings, where the agree­ment does not ap­ply.

Once in Canada they have a right to file refugee claims.

Canada has tried to stem the tide of bor­der-crossers, in­clud­ing work­ing with US of­fi­cials to block Nige­ri­ans, who com­prised about a third of bor­der-crossers this year, from get­ting US visas.

Ot­tawa has also en­cour­aged US cus­toms agents to turn back peo­ple with valid travel doc­u­ments lest they con­tinue on to Canada to file refugee claims.

“They’re in­ter­dict­ing peo­ple at air­ports, pulling peo­ple from flights, not just in Nige­ria but even as they land in the United States, and that work is jointly be­ing done by Canada,” Hussen told re­porters on May 31.

US Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion con­firmed its co-op­er­a­tion with Canada in­cludes “mit­i­gat­ing travel to the US where pos­si­ble to avoid sec­ondary move­ments to Canada” but would not pro­vide de­tails.

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