A recent surge in asylum applications at Canadian airports is being attributed to a quiet policy change by the Liberal government relaxing certain requirements for visitor visa applicants.
According to the Globe and Mail, data from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveal that, between January and September this year, over 26,000 individuals have submitted asylum claims at airports, a 54% increase over the same period last year.
This uptick coincided with two significant events – the much publicized March 2023 closure of Roxham Road, a well-known illegal border entry into Quebec, and the federal government’s secretive implementation of a temporary policy in February 2023.
The immigration policy change essentially eliminated the need for visitor visa applicants to demonstrate proof of financial resources and an intent to leave Canada upon visa expiration – making room for visa overstays and otherwise previously ineligible applicants to enter Canada.
The change, which wasn’t publicly disclosed until June 2023, was intended to expedite application processing and reduce the backlog, which stands at over 2.6 million cases in IRCC’s inventory.
This policy is in effect until the end of this year.
Critics of the policy argue it has created a loophole for potential asylum seekers, enabling them to enter Canada as visitors and subsequently submit asylum claims at airports.
“(It) makes our immigration system seem unreliable,” immigration lawyer Zeynab Ziaie Moayyed told the Globe and Mail.
“(This is) a short-sighted way to reduce that backlog, but creates all kinds of other problems.”
They also contend that IRCC is not conducting thorough security and eligibility checks on visitors, which jeopardizes the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.
Some also question the rationale behind this policy, particularly given Canada’s ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions.
When contacted by the Globe and Mail, IRCC brushed off the concerns and attributed the spike in asylum applicants to “global migration” patterns.
“In the current reality of increasing global migration, Canada, like many other countries, is experiencing a rise in the number of people claiming asylum,” said an IRCC spokesperson.
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy recently called for a border wall along the U.S.-Canada 49th parallel, citing concerns about illegal immigration and asylum spillover from Canada.
His proposal follows New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu’s establishment of a Northern Border Alliance Task Force to monitor the state’s border with Canada.