By National Post |
There are so many Mounties needed to process illegal border crossings in rural Quebec that the federal government is now spending $250,000 to build an unofficial police station on the U.S. border. In Toronto last week, Mayor John Tory announced that the number of refugee claimants in the city’s shelter system has quadrupled from 459 per night in 2016 to an average of 2,351 in 2018. And at least one Quebec politician is calling for a border fence with the U.S.
These are just some of the repercussions of the more than 20,000 illegal border crossings into Canada since early 2017, all of them made by foreign nationals seeking asylum. With the influx expected to grow even bigger this summer, here are the details of Canada’s ongoing migrant crisis.
Illegal border crossers are outpacing conventional refugees for the first time
In the first three months of 2018, 5,052 asylum seekers were intercepted by the RCMP after illegally crossing the Canadian border, compared to 4,475 people who filed refugee claims through conventional channels such as airports and official border stations. In other words, for the first time there are more people illegally seeking asylum in Canada than making legal refugee claims — and that trend is set to continue throughout 2018.
In 2017, the Immigration and Refugee Board received at least 18,149 claims from what they call “irregular border crossers” — those who claimed asylum after first entering Canada illegally. This was compared to 29,276 people who applied for refugee status through legal channels. But with the rate of illegal crossings already double what it was in 2017, the “illegal” category is poised to blow past the “legal” category.
The RCMP intercepted 1,890 illegal border crossers in the first three months of 2017. In the same period in 2018, that number soared to 5,052. Over the Easter Weekend alone, more than 600 crossed into Quebec, and provincial officials are expecting more than 400 per day as the weather gets warmer. Much of this activity is in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., where it’s particularly easy to cross over from Champlain, New York.
These are “illegal” border crossings, but Canadian law does not view the border crossers as criminals
When the migrant crisis has been discussed in the House of Commons, it has often been accompanied by robust argument over the use of the term “illegal migrant.” The Conservatives use the term, while the Liberals and the NDP prefer the term “irregular migrants” (and accuse the Tories of fear-mongering). It is illegal to cross into Canada without first passing through a port of entry. Indeed, any border-crosser at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle will pass by a bilingual sign saying “it is illegal to cross the border here” — and they will also be told as much by the area’s substantial police presence. However, while someone can be charged for entering Canada without authorization, those charges are waived once someone makes an asylum claim.