News / Canada

Five things the federal government is doing about the influx of border crossers

OTTAWA — Nearly 7,000 people have crossed illegally into Canada in the last six weeks, most intent on filing for refugee status. The surge this summer caps seven months of near-steady increases in the number of people entering into Canada between official border crossings to seek asylum.

Here are five things the federal government has done as a result:

1) Shift around border guards, RCMP officers and immigration officials. Everyone who crosses illegally into Canada is apprehended, and if they say they are here to seek asylum, must pass security checks, and then a review of whether they are in fact eligible to make a claim. The arrival of thousands more people than normal in provinces such as Manitoba and Quebec has prompted an increase in security and immigration officials at those entry points. In Montreal, for example, a team of eight immigration officers is being increased to a group 45. The Immigration and Refugee Board has also devoted 20 of its members solely to hearing the asylum claims.  

2) Provide temporary housing. From cots at Montreal's Olympic stadium to tents outside a conference centre in Cornwall, Ont., officials have scrambled to provide temporary shelter to the new arrivals. The reason? They need to be screened for admissibility to Canada before they can be allowed to move freely about the country.

3) Co-ordinate. A task force comprising federal politicians and those from Ontario and Quebec has been set up to oversee the response to the influx. Among other things, it is trying to share information about the needs of those arriving, as well as figure out where to deploy more resources and, eventually, how much this is all costing and who is going to pay.

4) Change the message at home. Back in January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted a message to Twitter in response to a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to halt travel from certain countries and pause refugee resettlement. Trudeau's message said that Canada would continue to welcome those fleeing persecution, but those few words are now being held up by critics as the reason the border is seeing such an influx of people. In recent days, Trudeau and others in his cabinet have taken a tougher tone as they scramble to contain criticisms and potential political fallout from the perception they've lost control of the border.

5) Change the message abroad. While a change in U.S. immigration policy has prompted many people to seek asylum in Canada, they're also being told on social media and elsewhere that preferred status awaits them. Beginning last week, Canadian consulates in the U.S. tried to clear up that misinformation, while at the same time the government is sending a Creole-speaking Liberal MP to Miami to speak to the Haitian diaspora there as many of those coming to Canada are Haitian.

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