Asylum seekers line up to enter Olympic Stadium Friday, August 4, 2017 near Montreal, Quebec. Canadian border officials are preparing for another expected spike in asylum seekers coming illegally into the country through Quebec and Ontario from the U.S. as the weather gets warmer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canada’s border service has removed fewer than 900 of 45,000 ‘irregular’ asylum-seekers

Since early 2017, more than 45,000 migrants have arrived in Canada irregularly

The Canada Border Services Agency has removed fewer than 900 “irregular” asylum-seekers who have applied for refugee protection in Canada through a loophole in asylum laws, according to new federal figures.

Since early 2017, more than 45,000 migrants have arrived in Canada irregularly by entering the country mainly through a forest path between New York State and Quebec, avoiding official border checkpoints where they would be turned away and told to file refugee claims in the United States.

So far, only 866 have been removed from Canada after their refugee claims were rejected, according to figures tabled recently in the House of Commons.

The number is low is because removal orders can only be enforced once a refugee claimant has exhausted all legal avenues to try to remain in the country, said Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, a spokeswoman for Border Security Minister Bill Blair.

“Prior to removal, individuals may seek leave for judicial review, as well as administrative review procedures that assess the potential risk to the person of returning to their country of origin,” she said in a statement Friday.

“Everyone ordered removed from Canada is entitled to due process before the law and all removal orders are subject to various levels of appeal.”

Canada began experiencing an influx of irregular asylum seekers in early 2017, after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would end a program that offers temporary protected status to migrants from several countries, serving notice he would seek to return them to homelands that had previously been considered too dangerous.

By avoiding official border crossings when entering Canada, these migrants take advantage of a loophole in Canada’s “Safe Third Country Agreement” with the United States that allows people who are already on Canadian soil to make refugee claims. The agreement would otherwise see them turned back to the U.S., a country Canada considers safe for them.

The Trudeau Liberals have called these individuals “irregular” migrants, rather than “illegal” — the term regularly used by the Conservatives.

Their refugee claims are processed by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) — an arm’s-length tribunal. The IRB has built up a major backlog in trying to process the rush of new claims over the last two years. This, too, is a factor in the length of time it has taken for those without valid claims to be removed by the border-services agency.

Figures posted online show the IRB has only processed 33 per cent of the refugee claims it has received from irregular migrants since 2017. Of those, 6,885 people have been accepted for refugee protection and 5,650 have been rejected. Another 1,322 claims have been abandoned or withdrawn. Tens of thousands remain in a queue, waiting to be processed.

Meanwhile only 30 per cent of the 4,700 appeals of these decisions have been finalized.

Even if their appeals are unsuccessful, refugee claimants may also be entitled to pre-removal risk assessments to determine whether sending them back to their home countries might put them in danger.

Missing travel documents and medical issues can also delay removals.

Cadieux says the decision to remove someone from Canada is “not taken lightly.”

However, CBSA is required by law to enforce removal orders as soon as possible once all avenues of appeal have been explored.

“Everyone ordered removed has been given due process, but once legal avenues have been exhausted, individuals are expected to respect our laws and leave Canada, or, as per our commitments, be removed.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Red Deer down to one confirmed active case of COVID-19

18 new cases were confirmed across the province Saturday

Bentley teacher injects online lessons with fun and creativity

‘Howe’s Historical Moments’ makes learning that much more memorable for the youngsters

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The Rimbey Review covers the stories that matter to you and to our community

N.S. fire crews continue battling ‘out-of-control’ Porters Lake blaze

Word of the fire first emerged early Saturday afternoon

Technology, representation butt heads amid debate over resuming Parliament

The Liberals are now proposing four meetings a week until June 17

Procession for Snowbirds crash victim makes its way through Halifax

The 35-year-old military public affairs officer and Halifax native died in the crash

Who is at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19? Firefighters, drivers, pharmacists, cooks

Central Alberta firefighter says virus taking toll on mental health

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada as of May 23

There are 83,621 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada

Procession for Snowbirds crash victim to make its way through Halifax today

The military public affairs officer died in the Snowbirds Tutor jet crash in B.C. last Sunday

Employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

Only eight per cent of employers were fully prepared to restart operations, survey finds

Central Alberta woman recognized by province for making hospital gowns

Northern Lights Volunteer Recognition program honours Christine Engel

Most Read