Refugee advocates worry Canada will push U.S. for border crackdown
On the eve of the U.S. homeland security secretary’s visit to Canada, refugee advocates worry Ottawa could ask the Americans to beef up border enforcement to curb the flow of asylum-seekers coming into the country.
The surge of illegal crossings in recent months is expected to be a key issue on the agenda between Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and U.S. Secretary John Kelly.
“They have done it in the past and started arresting people coming up at the border. Canadian officials can ask the Americans to boost enforcement,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “It would be really disturbing if Canada is going to push the U.S. to do that.”
The Department of Homeland Security has yet to officially announce Kelly’s trip, but Canadian cabinet minister Marc Garneau has told the media it could be as early as Friday. The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa would not confirm the meeting.
In the first two months of 2017, about 1,700 refugee claims were filed at the land border across the country, including asylum-seekers who entered outside an official port of entry, which officials call “irregular” crossings, and those who crossed legally at a border enforcement station.
Quebec, which has seen the highest number of irregular crossings across Canada so far this year, has already received 1,087 land-border claims. That’s 43 per cent of the total for all of 2016.
Last year, the province received 2,527 land-border claims, up sharply from 1,054 in 2015 and 881 in 2014.
On Tuesday, Goodale said the government is working on contingency plans should the situation along the border change. Contingencies being considered include the possibility of a larger number of migrants attempting the crossing as the weather improves and threats to the safety of migrants in case of flooding along the Red River near Emerson, Manitoba, another hot spot for irregular crossings.
“We are examining all of that, the physical circumstances, the forces or factors that might pull that migration (away) and others that might push it (toward Canada). I mean all of that is being carefully analyzed,” Goodale said.
“As the circumstances evolve, we want to make sure that we’ve thought it through in advance and we have ourselves in a position to deal with it effectively.”
Goodale would not comment on what options are under consideration by officials on both sides of the border to slow down the refugee inflow via the U.S.
“It is clearly affecting Canada as the migrants come across the border. We need to have a very good co-operative seamless arrangement with the U.S. to fully appreciate where the flow began and all of the factors,” he said.
SOURCE: NICHOLAS KEUNG, ALEX BOUTILIER
The Toronto Star