Rate of illegal migrants slowing at Quebec border: federal officials
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, August 21, 2017 11:09PM EDT
Canada’s immigration minister says police are intercepting fewer refugee claimants illegally crossing into Quebec as officials intensify their efforts to curb misinformation encouraging migrants to head north.
“We’re talking about an average of 140 people per day. That is over the last three days,” Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told reporters on Monday. That figure represents a marked decrease from the 250 per day that authorities said they intercepted last week.
Almost 7,000 asylum seekers have been caught at the Quebec-U.S. border in the last six weeks, authorities said on Thursday. The RCMP intercepted more than 3,800 people between Aug. 1 and 15. The nearly 3,000 in July were almost quadruple the 781 from June.
Many of the asylum seekers are Haitians fleeing the U.S. ahead of a pending immigration policy change that will resume deportations to Haiti after a lengthy pause triggered by the devastating 2010 earthquake. The Trump administration signaled in May that it would end the so-called “temporary protected status” program.
Ottawa has been scrambling to dispel misinformation circulating on social media promising easy entry to Canada. Haitian-Canadian MP Emmanuel Dubourg will travel to Miami on Wednesday for Creole-language interviews and meetings with community leaders of the city’s Haitian diaspora.
“Trying to cross the border in an irregular fashion is not a free ticket to Canada,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. “We have been making that point over and over again.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the “we” Goodale was referring to. Speaking ahead of Montreal’s annual Pride Parade on Sunday, the prime minister stressed that anyone seeking refugee status will have to go through Canada’s “rigorous” screening process.
As of Monday, the number of asylum seekers being processed in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle was larger than the number of people entering, but hundreds remain in limbo inside camps at the border and temporary shelters as far away as Cornwall, Ont.
While the numbers appear to be shifting in Ottawa’s favour, Goodale cautioned the latest figures should be taken with a grain of salt.
“No one can say two or three days totally reverses a pattern that has been established over the last several months, but the numbers are somewhat better as of today,” he said.
Quebec Health and Social Services associate executive director said any sign of relief is good news.
“With the resources that we currently have, we couldn’t very well go any further.”
Goodale and Hussen also address concerns that the influx of asylum seekers could overwhelm security screening capacity, fears that anti-immigration groups have been eager to exploit.
Speaking directly to would-be asylum seekers, Goodale said, “Your background will be checked thoroughly through the computer data bases through which we have access . . . to see if there is any criminal issue or any immigration issue or any national security issue. If there is a problem . . . you may be arrested and detained if laws are being broken.”
With a report from CTV’s Vanessa Lee