Cuts to immigration might be on the table due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told the House of Commons human resources committee that the federal government will be taking a look at current immigration levels and that changes would be “driven by the context” of the situation, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

The Liberal government’s Immigration Levels Plan, which was unveiled on March 12, is set to hike immigration levels by one per cent from 331,000 in 2019 to 341,000 this year, further increasing to 351,000 next year. 

Rising unemployment and economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic has called these figures into question, however.

“We will continue to examine the circumstances including the surrounding context of Canada’s response to Covid-19 as we plan for the future,” said Mendicino in response to a question from Conservative MP Peter Kent. 

“We have to put a pause on everything from refugee intake to economic immigrants. At this point in time, it only makes sense. We’re already stretched,” Kent said. 

The Liberals have taken the unprecedented step of closing Canada’s borders and curbing the flow of illegal border crossers because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Although illegal traffic at unofficial border crossings has been formally stopped, recent reports show that the government continues to allow asylum claimants to make claims at official ports of entry.

A new federal order allows migrants who meet the criteria of being refugee claimants to enter the country. Upon entry, they are then required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period. 

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told the House of Commons on April 20 fewer than 10 people had been returned to the US since the border was closed. It is unclear if the minister was including illegal border crossers who have been redirected to official ports of entry in this statistic. 

Refugee claims submitted at official border crossings are under the purview of the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). 

Under the agreement, people claiming refugee status are required to do so in the first country they arrive in otherwise they are to be turned away at official ports of entry.

Several exceptions are in place which would allow family members, unaccompanied minors and special document holders into Canada. There is also an exception for those who have been charged or convicted of an offence that could lead to the death penalty.

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