Asylum seekers fleeing U.S. may find cold comfort in Canada’s courts

Useful article on how the system works:

Migrants who applied for asylum in the United States but then fled north, fearing they would be swept up in President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, may have miscalculated in viewing Canada as a safe haven.

That is because their time in the United States could count against them when they apply for asylum in Canada, according to a Reuters review of Canadian federal court rulings on asylum seekers and interviews with refugee lawyers.

In 2016, 160 asylum cases came to the federal courts after being rejected by refugee tribunals. Of those, 33 had been rejected in part because the applicants had spent time in the United States, the Reuters review found.

Lawyers said there could be many more such cases among the thousands of applicants who were rejected by the tribunals in the same period but did not appeal to the federal courts.

The 2016 court rulings underscore the potentially precarious legal situation now facing many of the nearly 2,000 people who have crossed illegally into Canada since January.

Most of those border crossers had been living legally in the United States, including people awaiting the outcome of U.S. asylum applications, according to Canadian and U.S. government officials and Reuters interviews with dozens of migrants.

Trump’s tough talk on illegal immigration, however, spurred them northward to Canada, whose government they viewed as more welcoming to migrants. There, they have begun applying for asylum, citing continued fears of persecution or violence in their homelands, including Somalia and Eritrea.

But Canadian refugee tribunals are wary of “asylum-shopping” and look askance at people coming from one of the world’s richest countries to file claims, the refugee lawyers said.

“Abandoning a claim in the United States or coming to Canada after a negative decision in the United States, or failing to claim and remaining in the States for a long period of time — those are all big negatives. Big, big negatives,” said Toronto-based legal aid lawyer Anthony Navaneelan, who is representing applicants who came to Canada from the United States in recent months.

The Canadian government has not given a precise figure on how many of the border crossers were asylum seekers in the United States.

But it appears their fears may have been misplaced. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has said that anyone in the United States illegally is subject to deportation, but there is no evidence that asylum seekers with pending cases are considered illegal under the new administration.

‘Lack of seriousness’

The asylum seekers will make their cases before Canada’s refugee tribunals, which rejected 5,000 cases last year.

The tribunals’ decisions are not made public, so the reasons are not known. An Immigration and Refugee Board spokeswoman confirmed, however, that an applicant’s time in the United States can be a factor in a tribunal’s decision.

Rejected applicants can appeal to Canada’s federal courts, whose rulings are published. The federal courts upheld 19 of the 33 tribunal rejections they heard last year and recommended fresh tribunal hearings for the other 14 cases.

The judges believed those claimants had a good explanation for having been in the United States first. The outcomes of the new tribunal hearings are not known.

The federal court handles only a small portion of all applications rejected by the refugee tribunals. But overall, applicants who have spent time in the United States have a higher chance of being rejected, said multiple immigration lawyers, including two former refugee tribunal counsel, interviewed by Reuters.

Source: Asylum seekers fleeing U.S. may find cold comfort in Canada’s courts – Manitoba – CBC News

Nearly half of Canadians support deporting people who are in Canada illegally, poll finds

Not surprising, one of the factors that underlies overall Canadian support for immigration is that the public perceives this as managed and controlled. Irregular arrivals undermine that trust:

Undocumented immigrants in the United States are fleeing to Canada. But Canadians may not want them, a new survey finds.

Nearly half of Canadians support “increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Monday.

The same share said they supported sending migrants that crossed from the United States right back over the border, while just 36 percent said Canada should accept them and let them apply for refugee status.

Read more:Trump, tighter air travel rules behind surge of refugees at Canada-U.S. border, experts say

The popular sentiment could pose a challenge to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who champions a pro-refugee and pro-immigration policy as a stark foil to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump’s anti-immigrant “build-a-wall” rhetoric helped launch him into the White House, but since getting there, he has faced significant political backlash and legal scrutiny over his policies.

The debate is spilling over into Canada, where Trudeau is taking a political hit for keeping his country’s door opento refugees and immigrants.

Forty-six percent of poll respondents disagreed with how Trudeau is handling immigration, while 37 per cent agreed.
The poll shows the national debate on immigration is heating up. Nearly a quarter of Canadians believe immigration-control is a leading national issue, compared to 19 per cent in a December poll.

Some 40 per cent thought accepting those fleeing from the United States could make Canada less safe.

Undocumented immigrants began fleeing to Canada in record numbers after Trump’s political rise.

In 2016, 1,222 fled the United States to Quebec alone, a five-fold increase.

Source: Nearly half of Canadians support deporting people who are in Canada illegally, poll finds | Toronto Star

Officials confirm rise in asylum seekers [with data] crossing illegally into Canada, but RCMP lay no charges

Good that the numbers are being released, along with the close monitoring – an increase of 26.5 percent compared to last year (January 1 to February 21) :

Canadian officials are keeping close tabs on the number of people illegally crossing the border into Canada, but they don’t expect the winter increase will necessarily lead to a spring surge.

Government officials, who spoke on background and did not wish to be named, provided journalists with an update on illegal crossings today and confirmed an increase in three provinces.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21 this year, there were 290 illegal crossings in Quebec, 94 in Manitoba and 51 in British Columbia, totalling 435.

That compares with 2,464 illegal entries apprehended by the RCMP in the same regions in all of 2016.

These numbers do not include people who may have crossed illegally without being caught by police.

While it is a criminal offence to cross into Canada outside a legal border point, no one has yet been charged, according to an official. If caught, the person who has entered the country without authorization is arrested and required to undergo a criminal background check.

“To my knowledge we haven’t charged the people for crossing the border illegally,” one official said. “We determine if there’s any criminality … then we would follow up. If there’s no criminality, we would turn them over to our counterparts at CBSA.”

The Canada Border Services Agency can detain people who have a criminal record, who can’t be properly identified or who are at risk of not showing up for a hearing. Officials stressed that all people are carefully screened by CBSA before they are released.

No charges until after refugee claim process

Refugee and human rights lawyer Lorne Waldman said police cannot lay a charge until the refugee claim process is complete.

“There’s a clear provision in the law that says people who cross the border or use false documents in order to come to Canada to make a refugee claim cannot be charged unless their claim is rejected, because the UN convention says people shouldn’t be punished for illegal entry if it’s for the purpose of making a refugee claim,” he told CBC News.

Careful screening process

“We are not releasing anybody that we have concerns about,” an official said. “Their identity is confirmed, the biometrics have been confirmed, the biographic data is confirmed … they are deemed admissible and they are eligible for proceeding towards a refugee claim.”

The total number of people who made refugee claims in Canada inland — not at official border points — climbed to 2,281 this year between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21, up from 1,803 during the same period in 2016.

Source: Officials confirm rise in asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada, but RCMP lay no charges – Politics – CBC News

Refugee claims at Canada-U.S. border have doubled over past 2 years

Will likely be an ongoing challenge under the Trump administration:

The number of refugee claims made at the border has more than doubled over the past two years, surging to 7,023 in 2016, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

By comparison, 4,316 people sought refugee status in Canada at land border crossings in 2015 and another 3,747 did in 2014.

But the spike isn’t unusual and represents a return to the volume of refugees Canada has previously received, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees.

land border refugee claims

“The numbers may look high, but that is because the range you are looking at is one where Canada has been receiving unusually low numbers of claimants,” Dench said in an email interview, noting that there were more than 8,000 land border claims made annually from 1999 to 2004.

“So in the longer perspective, 7,000 is not a very large number,” Dench explained.

Canada changed the way it receives refugees in 2004 with the introduction of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. The agreement says that people seeking protection must make their claim in the first country they arrive in. Canada must accordingly send asylum seekers trying to cross at the border back to the U.S.

21.3 million refugees around the world

In 2016, the largest group of people making refugee claims at border crossings in Canada came from Colombia, followed by Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Burundi. There were 21.3 million refugees around the globe in 2015, according to the United Nations.

Lorne Waldman, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in immigration and refugee law, attributes the recent rise to geopolitical instability. For example, there was a dramatic rise in Turkish refugee claims in Canada following the coup in Turkey.

“The numbers tell stories and the stories are really related to what’s happening politically,” he said, noting that Canada observed a rise in Pakistani refugee seekers that arrived via the U.S. following the Sept. 11 attacks.

land border claims

Waldman said the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to crack down on immigration and recently tried to enact a controversial travel ban restricting travel from seven Muslim majority countries, likely contributed to the bump.

“As the situation deteriorates in the U.S., the likelihood that we’re going to see more people crossing is very high,” he said.

But, Waldman noted that there has long been a perception among asylum seekers — even before Trump took office — that the U.S. is not sympathetic to refugee claims.

Source: Refugee claims at Canada-U.S. border have doubled over past 2 years – Canada – CBC News