Quebec has seen the sharpest increase of migrants fleeing Trump’s America
Another four people were taken into custody on Tuesday by Canadian police after they crossed from Vermont into Quebec, part of a wave of migrants that are fleeing the U.S. through illegal crossings.
Quebec has seen the sharpest increase of anywhere along the Canadian border since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and proceeded to crackdown on immigration and refugees.
CBC News reported that 452 people made refugee claims at border crossings in the province last month alone, which has included many families with children making the risky journey through harsh winter temperatures. That number represents a 230 percent increase from the same time last year.
Other provinces, especially Manitoba, have also seen a spike in asylum seekers slipping over the border in recent months as Trump battles to enforce his executive order that would temporarily ban refugees and immigrants from seven countries with Muslim majorities.
“They get arrested no matter who they are and they get taken to either one of our offices or a border patrol office.”
Cpl. Camille Hadel, a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Quebec, wouldn’t confirm specific numbers to VICE News, but said investigators and officers who patrol the Quebec-U.S. border are regularly running into migrants looking to enter at a higher rate than usual.
“If you’ve crossed the border without reporting yourself to a port of entry, that’s illegal and that’s an offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” she said. “They get arrested no matter who they are and they get taken to either one of our offices or a border patrol office.”
Over the last weekend alone, there were 42 asylum claims filed with the Immigration and Refugee Border by people crossing into Quebec, according to numbers from the Canada Border Services Agency provided to CBC. That’s on top of the estimated 1,000 new claims that were filed in January. In all of 2015, there were 2,529 asylum claims made at Quebec border crossings, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
Hadel added that the RCMP in Quebec does not assess the reasons why people are crossing the border, but said the Quebec crossings, particularly that at Lacolle, are in close proximity to major cities in the U.S. “And the actual border at that point where we see a lot of people cross, it’s mainly…a ditch,” she said. “There it’s easily doable to cross.”
Radio-Canada reported last year that the number of asylum seekers illegally crossing into Quebec has more than quadrupled in the last three years. November saw the highest number, with 273 people entering.
The migrants crossing the border illegally are attempting to circumvent a legal agreement between the U.S. and Canada, the Safe Third Country Agreement, that automatically refuses entry to most migrants who try to make an asylum claim at the Canadian border, if they arrived in the U.S. first, and vice versa. Migrants can register a claim in Canada once they are on Canadian soil, which is why many are taking the gamble and crossing clandestinely. A growing chorus of refugee lawyers and experts are calling on the Canadian government to scrap the agreement, as it encourages asylum seekers to take greater risks.
Last weekend, the Toronto Star observed three groups of people, including a Sudanese family with three children, walk across the forest in the U.S. through the Lacolle, Quebec border to claim asylum.
“And the actual border at that point where we see a lot of people cross, it’s mainly…a ditch.”
Though Quebec has seen the highest number of people crossing, attention has been focused on the dozens of asylum seekers who have crossed into the small border town of Emerson, Manitoba. Last weekend, 21 people were arrested by RCMP officers after crossing into the province. All of them were then taken to the CBSA office where they filed refugee claims. Dozens of other have also made it through that crossing, largely a wide open field, over the last few months.
The RCMP has pledged to boost resources to increase surveillance of the border to intercept those looking to cross without going through the regular checkpoint.
Refugee workers have also seen an increase in the number of asylum seekers crossing into British Columbia, including a Honduran woman who’s seven months pregnant, her husband, and 11-year-old son who arrived last week.
The family told the Vancouver Sun they left their home in Honduras over fears of being forced to work for a violent gang. They eventually settled in a western state in the U.S., but became fearful of their statuses under a new president who has vowed to crack down on immigrants.
Cover: Christinne Muschi/Reuters