There were 32,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Canada since the beginning of 2017, according to figures provided to the House of Commons public safety committee on Thursday. That’s up from last year’s total of around 24,000.
A total of 13,211 of those asylum seekers entered the country illegally, mostly through the Quebec border.
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The numbers were revealed as the House of Commons public safety committee received a briefing “on the issue of asylum seekers irregularly entering Canada from the United States.”
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has deployed an additional 80 workers to help refugee claimants who arrived through Quebec at a temporary facility in Montreal.
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Around 5,600 of the asylum seekers were awarded temporary health coverage and another 6,000 have received expedited work permits, according to Michael McDonald of the IRCC.
While the government is touting these numbers as successes, critics say the resources are being diverted from the main issue.
“Instead of actually addressing the illegal border crossing situation, Prime Minister Trudeau has been […] diverting resources away from legitimate refugees who are fleeing persecution and violence,” Tory MP Michelle Rempel said in a release.
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But Public Safety press secretary Scott Bardsley says that’s not the case. He says Canadian laws are still being enforced.
“Entering Canada illegally is not a ‘free ticket.’ Those seeking refuge here must follow the proper processes,” he said in an email. “Rigorous immigration rules are enforced to ensure that asylum seekers who are genuinely at risk are welcomed and those who are not are removed.”
As for how many refugee claims had been processed? That number wasn’t available.
Jacques Cloutier of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) said there were nine cases of deportation in British Columbia, but he didn’t have the numbers on asylum seekers who entered Quebec.
There were no statistics available on whether some asylum seekers were turned away for criminality, although RCMP spokesperson Joanne Crampton said it was “very, very low.”
Officials promised to provide the numbers as soon as possible, but Rempel said the lack of statistics amounts to a lack of transparency.
There were also no details on how much money the additional RCMP, CBSA and IRCC officers would cost the government, but officials said the extra stress isn’t impacting frontline policing, border wait times or other refugee claims.
“The reality is that our government is effectively managing an unprecedented situation,” Bardsley said.
“The RCMP and CBSA have done exceptional work managing the surge in asylum claimants in an orderly way.”
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