B.C. refugee advocates call for more resources to help border jumpers
Nick Wells, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 13, 2017 9:43PM EDT
Lawyers in B.C. are warning that the dramatic increase of people illegally crossing the border in to Canada is straining the refugee processing system.
Mark Benton, the CEO of the Legal Services Society, says the number of people asking for help with immigration matters two years ago numbered less than 500. In the past year the number of people looking for help has dramatically risen to 900.
"We're genuinely concerned that the current circumstances in the U.S. will result in higher claimants here," he told CTV Vancouver.
His comments are echoed by Mario Ayala, the executive director of the Inland Refugee Society.
"We don't have enough resources to support all of these newcomers," he said.
Ayala says his group, which helps roughly half of all asylum seekers has seen a dramatic increase in their caseload.
Last January, they helped 34 refugees. This January, they helped nearly 100.
B.C. hasn't seen the same numbers of asylum seekers as Emerson, Man., but there have been a handful of notable cases.
An Iraqi family crossed through a park in the city Surrey, B.C., which straddles the U.S. border, two weeks ago, fearing for their future in the U.S. in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on several Muslim countries.
The Shkur family, who are from the Kurdish region of Iraq, had been living in Virginia for nine months when they decided to make the illegal crossing.
The family had attempted to legally cross in to Canada last year, but were turned down resulting in an Exclusion Order.
An Exclusion Order means that the person in question can't return to Canada for one year, unless they receive an authorization to return.
The Shkur family illegally crossed a few days before the order ended, meaning they now face deportation from Canada and are unable to claim asylum status.
"We're feeling scared because we really don't want to go back to our country," said 12-year-old Ashki Shkur.
The family is meeting with a lawyer in the coming days to figure out the next steps to avoid being sent back to the U.S.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's David Molko