Mexican refugees showing up at
Canadian border in record numbers Politics Watch ® News Services
October 15, 2007, updated 10:40 a.m.
|Mexico now ranks as the No. 1 source of
refugee claimants to Canada.
OTTAWA (PoliticsWatch.com) —
The Canadian border city of Windsor, Ontario, has received international media attention over the past month after a large influx of Mexican and Haitian nationals living in the U.S. began arriving in the city seeking refugee status.
The incident highlights a growing trend in Canada's immigration and refugee process.
Mexico now ranks as Canada's No. 1 source country for refugees claims ahead of countries known for human rights violations, such as
According to statistics provided by Citizenship and Immigration
Canada, 3,419 Mexicans made refugee claims in 2006. That is almost triple the 1,239 from China, the No. 2 ranked
country. It is the largest number of refugee claimants from one single country for any year over the past 10 years.
It is also more than four times the 800 refugee claims from Mexico made in 1997, when Mexico ranked seventh for refugee claims.
One Windsor-area MP expects the number of Mexican refugees entering Canada via the U.S. will increase beyond the current record level.
"We're expecting more of this to come and it might actually spread across to other parts of Canada. That's a real potential," said NDP MP
Brian Masse in an interview with PoliticsWatch.com.
"You'll see potentially more increase in Haitians and Mexicans that will be trying to make their way to Canada via the
argument of economic refugee."
Canada's Annual Flow of Adult Refugee Claimants 18 Years of Age or Older by Top Source Countries
3. Colombia 1,049
4. Sri Lanka
8. Zimbabwe 467
|Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Masse blamed the sudden infux of refugee claimants from Mexico partly on the recent crackdown on illegal aliens in the U.S.
In June, the U.S. Senate voted effectively to kill a comprehensive immigration bill
supported by U.S. President
George W. Bush that would have created a path to citizenship or amnesty for some of the 12 million illegal aliens living in the U.S.
Since the bill's defeat, there has been a noticeable crackdown on illegal aliens in some U.S. states and cities.
"Most of them are coming for economic reasons and that is not recognized," Masse said.
"What we need to do is cut this off from the source so people aren't making tragic decisions and altering their lives to only have them thrown in a point of limbo because they aren't going to granted status in the long run here."
Stephane Malepart, senior communications advisor for the eastern region at the
Immigration and Refugee Board, told PoliticsWatch that in first six months of this year just 13 per cent of 1,123 the finalized refugee claims from Mexicans were approved.
Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for
Refugees, said in an interview with PoliticsWatch that while the anti-illegal immigration mood in the U.S. is nothing new, experience shows that "U.S. policies and threats of deportation will often lead to increases in numbers of people trying to escape to Canada."
U.S. operators looking to make money by delivering illegal aliens to the Canadian border is a driving factor in the sudden increase in refugee
claims, according to Dench.
"Many of these Mexicans presumably would not thought of coming to Canada had it not been for an organization that started getting into the business of telling people," she said.
The New York Times reported that many of the families who arrived in Windsor said they had learned about gaining refugee status in Canada from the the
Jerusalem Haitian Community Center, in Naples, Florida.
Some of the refugees told the Times the group collected $400 from adults and $100 per child and assured them there would be jobs and
shelter once they made it across the border.
Jacques Sinjuste, director of the Jerusalem Haitian Community Centre, has publicly denied that his group is behind the flood of refugees to Windsor.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, however, told PoliticsWatch that the government is aware that a community organization in Naples, Florida has been advertising incorrect and false information that has led some people to think there is an easy way into Canada by claiming they are refugees.
Canadian and U.S. officials met with staff at the organization on September 11 to raise concerns about their activities and urge them to correct this misinformation as quickly as possible.
"The organization gave Canadian officials assurances it would remove incorrect and false information from their website and would stop giving misleading information," the department told PoliticsWatch in a statement.
The department also said efforts are being made to stress there is no special program for Mexicans and Haitians and no one is automatically accepted for refugee status in Canada.
"To be considered a legitimate refugee an individual must demonstrate a
real fear of persecution in their country of origin," the department said. "Therefore, just showing up at a Canadian border is not the way to get into Canada."
Both Masse and Dench also blamed Canada's Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States for complicating the situation at the border.
Under the 2004 agreement, Canadian officials can turn away most refugees claimants that arrive at land crossings from the U.S., with a few exceptions.
Mexican nationals are among those exempted because they do not require a visa to enter Canada under the agreement.
"When the safe third-country agreement came into effect the border became much more complicated," said Dench.
"As we predicted, there arose a new market which was filled by people who would in exchange for money would offer information, which might be incorrect information, or assistance getting into Canada."
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