By Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press on January 24, 2024.
OTTAWA – The federal Conservatives want the Trudeau government to restore a visa requirement for Mexican tourists as concerns mount about denied refugee claims.
Asylum 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.
That’s partially the result of the government’s decision in 2016 to lift the visa requirement, making it easier for people from Mexico to make an asylum claim in Canada.
The Tories say the change has led to fraud, abuse and strain on the asylum system and delays for legitimate claims.
The government has been in talks with Mexico on the issue, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said earlier this week.
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 options, but that disclosing them would only empower bad actors trying to “game the system.” Mexico remains an important economic partner to Canada, he added.
Mexico’s embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a media inquiry Wednesday.
The Biden administration has warned that human traffickers linked to Mexican cartels may be exploiting Canada’s visa-free regime in order to get people into the U.S.
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, about 19 per cent of all claims that year, up from 7,483 and 12 per cent the previous year.
Refugee service providers in Montreal say 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. 24, 2024.