Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Canada has changed its policy of turning back asylum-seekers between the two countries to concentrate more on processing claims by people who have crossed the border legally, which is costing Canada’s border agency and border guards thousands of dollars per day.
Under the new rules, asylum-seekers will have to show valid travel documents — typically for Canada — in order to cross the border. The migrants will also be fingerprinted and face some form of procedural questioning.
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The rules, which go into effect Thursday, fall in line with the government’s broader objective of encouraging those who believe they face danger in their home countries to apply for asylum in Canada.
As of January this year, about 21,000 people had sought asylum in Canada since the start of the year, according to the Canadian government. This includes 1,137 asylum-seekers who crossed the border into Canada after March 2018, out of a total of 96,606 since January 2017.
These illegal arrivals are a drain on public funds — one immigration lawyer told CNN in May that border officials have been handed a bill of $1 million each day for work such as examining asylum-seekers who have been turned back.
The country’s previous government, which was defeated in last year’s federal election, has made the government’s effort to curb illegal immigration a priority, and recently passed legislation that encourages border-crossers to enter legally.
The previous Liberal government, known for its liberal immigration policies, saw its popularity drop dramatically after more than a thousand asylum-seekers jumped the border in the spring of 2017 in a bid to escape Trump’s aggressive rhetoric and policy towards asylum-seekers.
Canada has seen a new influx of asylum-seekers since 2016. Credit: #ZipCologne #ISMIELSAT
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration as US President, large numbers of asylum-seekers — particularly from Central America — have decided to jump the border into Canada rather than attempt to go through the arduous screening process in the United States.
Trump’s recent focus on immigration spurred a massive security and emergency response by Canadian police and authorities at a temporary shelter in Hemmingford, Quebec, which holds more than 1,100 asylum-seekers.
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The government has decided to prioritize cases by focusing its resources on legal border crossings as opposed to irregular ones, which generally involve adults and families seeking protection from political persecution.
“It is not only potentially life-saving, but also important for our economy and tax revenue,” Kirsty Duncan, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, said in a statement Tuesday.
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Denise Arsenault, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said in a statement that the new system would make it more difficult for people to travel without a proper identification document in an effort to deter people from taking the risk.
“All Canadians need to understand that unlawful crossers are putting at risk our safety, security and the economy,” she said.
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The new system is intended to be expeditious for claimants and officials by reducing the need for physical interactions.
An activist for the Tibetan cause and refugee, Ihang Shihab, has been critical of the Canada government’s handling of the situation, telling CNN that authorities are charging asylum-seekers with the crimes of trying to cross the border illegally, even when they have legal authorization to cross legally.
The move, he said, will penalize those who are on the border for an hour or two at a time and will likely cause them to file the most cursory claim in order to be quickly turned back at the border.
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In recent months, Canada has said that it wants to regain its reputation as a welcoming country to those fleeing persecution, adding that its new policy will be proportionate.
“Anyone who has a claim to asylum can expect to be processed by our immigration system,” the government’s statement said.
Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of national defense, announced the new policy in March, and told reporters in Montreal at the time that Canada has been unfairly portrayed as a hostile place.
“It has been portrayed as Canadians are intolerant or are racist or are xenophobic,” he said. “Let’s be clear, those are false narratives that would be damaging for our country to be perpetuated.”