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Majority of migrants crossing illegally into B.C. are of an “unknown nationality” despite security screenings

The RCMP only tracks the quantity of illegal border crossers and not the nationalities despite conducting preliminary risk assessments.

According to an Access to Information request with the RCMP, 53.3% of the migrants illegally crossing into Canada along British Columbia’s border with the United States are reported as being of an “unknown nationality”. 

True North requested statistics on the quantity, nationality, and sex of people who have been intercepted by the RCMP crossing into Canada from January 1, 2019 to May 17, 2019.

In response, the RCMP reported that a total of 90 people have been intercepted at the border during that time period, 67 of which were male (74.4%).

Among those results, 48 people were listed with an “unknown” or “unidentified” nationality. 

According to RCMP Cpl. Caroline Duval, the RCMP only tracks the quantity of illegal border crossers and not the nationalities despite the fact that they conduct preliminary risk assessments. 

“The RCMP tracks total numbers of irregular migrants only. Statistics on specific nationalities are kept by CBSA in conjunction with IRCC,” said Duval. 

As reported by True North’s Graeme Gordon, some preliminary risk assessments can take less than two hours.The most recent figures also show that a total of 11,745 individuals who crossed into Canada illegally are still waiting to have their full security screenings completed.

“Preliminary risk assessments are conducted to determine if the person has been previously involved in any illegal [activity] and poses a risk to the security of Canadians,” said Duval. 

“If the individual who has illegally entered between the ports of entry claims to be a refugee, he/she is then transported to a port of entry where he/she is processed by CBSA.”

While Ontario and Quebec’s border with the U.S. has received most of the public attention, British Columbia has also had a growing issue with illegal border crossings. Most recently, a U.S. man was charged with illegally smuggling migrants into Surrey through his property which straddles the border. In another case it was discovered that 62-year old Michael Kong smuggled 34 Chinese migrants into the country with the help of his son.

According to Western Canada Communications Officer, Luke Reimer, the CBSA uses biometric and biographic information to determine the identity of individuals sent to them. Reimer was also able to confirm that there are some cases when individuals are sent to them from an unknown nationality.

“For various reasons, there are times when the CBSA cannot immediately determine a person’s country of origin upon their arrival in Canada. Next steps are dependent on the circumstances of the specific case, and all persons are processed in accordance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” said Reimer. 

People who refuse to cooperate or are found to be hiding their identity are investigated by the CBSA and potentially detained. 

“In making the decision of whether or not to detain, one of the factors officers consider is whether the person is willing to cooperate with the Government of Canada to establish their identity. Immigration detention is not arbitrary and is used as a measure of last resort,” said Reimer. 

While a majority of the people intercepted at the border were from an unidentified country, 17 different countries appeared on the RCMP’s list including places like Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Five Canadians and two Americans were also intercepted attempting to enter illegally into Canada.

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