Ottawa — A parliamentary committee has reported that already this year, the number of Mexican asylum claims to Canada is nearly four times the amount than for the entire year of 2016.
Officials from the House of Commons standing committee on citizenship and immigration revealed that the number of claims so far in 2017 was 946, while the total for all of 2016 was around 250. The committee points out that in 2015, total asylum claims from Mexican nationals was 111.
In December of this year, the Canadian government lifted the visa requirements for Mexican nationals. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the lift would “make it easier for our Mexican friends to visit Canada while growing our local economies and strengthening our communities.”
A spokesperson for Immigration, Minister Ahmed Hussen, said it’s too early to identify any potential trends.
“There has been an increased number of Mexican nationals who are making asylum claims in Canada since the visa lift, however this increase was anticipated.
“More time and data are required to fully assess the situation and we will continue to carefully monitor it,” he explained adding that Ottawa is also coordinating with the Mexican government to deter irregular migration and bolster “cooperation on travel document integrity and traveler screening.”
The visa requirements, which were initially put into place in 2009 under the Conservative Government after Mexico became Canada’s top source of refugee claimants, says a “large proportion” were economic migrants not in need of Canada’s protection.
Early indications of a strain on asylum claims from Mexico began in March when the overall number of claims were already steadily increasing.
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said, “They lifted (the visa requirement) without a formal review, the numbers are once again increasing.”
Of the 946 claims so far in 2017, 13 were made by Mexican nationals crossing the border illegally with the balance of claims being made inland or at an official point of entry to Canada.
In 2008, the year before the visa requirement was implemented, there were 9,400 asylum claims made by Mexican nationals, 10 times the number seen so far this year.
Rempel said it’s important to consider the broader context and new pressures on the immigration system. “These numbers haven’t been accounted for in the government’s projections,” he added.
Earlier this year, government documents revealed that last year, border officials were concerned that the visa life would make it easier for criminals from Mexico to enter Canada. To date, the concern has been partially backed up with Canadian Border Services Agency reporting 65 Mexican nations being involved in “serious” crimes.
Last year, that figure was 53. In 2015, it was 28.