By The Canadian Press on January 22, 2024.
OTTAWA – Immigration Minister Marc Miller says the Trudeau government is holding diplomatic talks with Mexico to deal with an increase in asylum claims from that country.
Miller says claims from Mexico have shot up in recent years and the rate of Mexican applicants who actually get refugee status is well below that of other countries.
He says the increase started after Canada lifted its visa requirement for Mexican tourists in late 2016, which experts say has made it easier for people to come and make an asylum claim.
Quebec Premier François Legault cited the rise in Mexican claimants in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, warning that his province’s services for refugees are reaching a “breaking point.”
Miller says Canada is looking at unspecified options, but that disclosing what they are would only empower bad actors trying to “game the system.”
Mexico’s embassy in Ottawa has been asked for comment.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc told media this past weekend that Ottawa wants to avoid Mexico’s visa-free access from becoming “a side door to get access to Canada.”
On the sidelines of a Monday cabinet retreat, Miller told reporters in Montreal that loosening visa policies has helped Canada’s economy, but is likely a factor in the rise of claims.
“Mexico is one of our principal economic partners. So any measures that we would take (or that) we would contemplate, would require a diplomatic process that is not yet completed,” he said.
“We acknowledge the problem; we acknowledge that Canada has to take action. But there’s some work left to do.”
Data from the Immigration and Refugee Board suggests a steep uptick in claims from Mexican citizens, which are reported on the year the agency receives cases and not when the person arrived in Canada.
In 2023, the agency had 17,490 claims from Mexico, making up 19 per cent of claims referred that year. A year prior, the number was 7,483 making up 12 per cent of claims.
Previously, refugee service providers in Montreal have said that Mexican families are fleeing violence, insecurity and a lack of jobs in Mexico. Many seek a work permit so they can earn money while their claim is being processed.
Human Rights Watch says violence in Mexico – including torture, enforced disappearances, abuses against migrants, extrajudicial killings, gender-based violence, and attacks on independent journalists – is rampant.
Canada only grants asylum to people it believes cannot safely live in any part of their home country because officials are unable or unwilling to provide those conditions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2024