Candice Malcolm & Graeme Gordon
After the Trudeau government changed Canada’s visa rules, the number of Mexican refugee claimants in Canada skyrocketed.
2,445 Mexican visitors to Canada failed to leave and instead applied for refugee status in Canada during the first ten months of 2018, according to new data from Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (IRCC) .
The number of Mexican asylum claimants to Canada in on track to rise almost 75% above the previous year’s total, or an 840% increase from 2016’s total.
In July 2016, the Trudeau government removed the visitor visa for Mexicans travelling to Canada — a visa imposed by the Harper government back in 2009 to end a surge of Mexicans claiming refugee status — despite the fact that the visa significantly reduced the number of asylum claims.
In 2016, the number of Mexican asylum seekers jumped to 260 from 111 the previous year, then surged to 1,515 in 2017, and continued to climb dramatically in 2018, rising to 2,445 claims in the first 10 months.
Number of Annual Asylum Claims from Mexican Nationals
Source: Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
“Our Government took a pivotal step towards rebuilding and strengthening our relationship with Mexico, which was damaged considerably under the previous government,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s spokesperson Mathieu Genest in an email.
“The visa lift has helped expand trade and business opportunities, increase investment and tourism, and strengthen people-to-people ties that benefit both countries. In 2017 alone, the increase in business travellers and tourists generated more than $600 million in economic benefits for Canada.”
Not everyone shares the Trudeau government’s optimism.
Toronto Immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann pointed out that, “the decision was definitely not consistent with traditional immigration policy.”
“This was completely anticipated by anyone who knows anything about it. It was done for purely political reasons. Mexico is a full participant in NAFTA and didn’t want to feel like the poor cousin of the trio. The cost was anticipated and was undertaken as the ‘cost of doing (international) business,’” said Mamann in an email.
“I would bet that any report by the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) or CIC (the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, now know as Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada or IRCC) that was requested by the government at that time would have warned of a significant increase in refugees claims,” he said.
Prior to the Harper government’s policy that made it mandatory for Mexicans travelling to Canada to get a travel visa, only a small fraction of the thousands of Mexicans asking for refugee status were deemed by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to be legitimate claimants. In 2008, for instance, Mexico comprised 26% of all asylum claims in Canada.
About 90% of those claims were eventually either rejected or abandoned.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on asylum claims before the IRB,” said Genest about the low success rate of past Mexican refugee claimants being a concern with the latest spike in claims.
“The IRB is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that operates at arms-length from the government to assess and make decisions on all refugee claims. Each case is evaluated on its own merits, and those with a well-founded fear of persecution are permitted to stay and those who are found to not have a legitimate claim are removed.”