The number of irregular border crossers coming into Canada from the US hit 16,503 in 2019, despite federal government efforts to tackle the problem.
The total was lower than the previous two years – 19,419 crossed in 2018 and 20,593 in 2017 – but still significantly higher than the norm.
Despite the annual total being lower this year, numbers exceeded 2018 in seven months, from June to December inclusive.
This suggests that efforts to tackle the problem – with numbers reduced to around 800 in January and February 2019 – are no longer working. Numbers peaked for 2019 at 1,874 in July.
Monthly figures remained significantly lower in 2019 than 2017, the year the issue first emerged, when close to 9,000 people crossed in two months between July and August.
The vast majority of border crossers are filtering into Canada through Quebec, at an unrecognized border point in Lacolle.
The number of irregular border crossers began to increase after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened the Temporary Protected Status of thousands of people in America in 2017.
Canada’s federal government sought to change the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to try and stop the flow of asylum seekers who enter from the U.S. at irregular border points.
The change, part of Bill C-97 that passed in June 2019, means asylum seekers who had previously made a refugee claim in another country could not then make a claim in Canada.
It means that asylum seekers who arrive in Canada having previously made a refugee claim in the U.S., are not eligible to seek asylum in Canada.
Safe Third Country Agreement
The move comes following attempts by the federal government to change the Safe Third Country Agreement in place between Canada and the U.S.
The bilateral agreement means that an asylum seeker has to claim refugee status in the first ‘safe’ country at which they arrive.
It means that asylum seekers arriving in the U.S. are not allowed to cross into Canada to claim refugee status. If they try to cross into Canada from the U.S. at recognized border points, they are turned back.
However, they are allowed to claim refugee status if they have already made it to Canada, which is why so many are choosing to cross at unrecognized points.
The modernization of the Safe Third Country Agreement is one of the stated aims of the Canadian federal government under re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.