Number of refugees crossing Canadian border quickly rising

Feb 13, 2017, 11:05 AM | Updated: 11:14 am

For the first time in a while, we’re hearing about refugees trying to leave the United States, instead of entering. People from Mexico are heading back to their country of origin and refugees are fleeing to the Canadian border.

Related: Historic line through the woods separates Washington from Canada

Though people attempting to gain refugee status by entering Canada from the U.S. isn’t new, Jason Markusoff of Maclean’s Magazine explains that the sheer volume of people doing so has significantly increased.

“In the last year or so — and especially the last month or so — it’s really exploded,” he said of the number of people sneaking to the Canadian border. As greater detention and deportation rules come down from the Trump administration, “People by the dozens are sneaking across the border.”

Many people are coming up from Minneapolis, Minn., according to Markusoff. They risk “life and limb” at night, crossing fields, seeking asylum.

Like the U.S., when someone attempts to enter Canada with refugee status, officials are required to hear them out. As Markusoff puts it, someone seeking safety can’t be criminalized.

“These people want to be caught … and they are not charged criminally,” Markusoff said. Instead, they are brought to the border patrol office and processed.

According to data from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, compiled by CBC, 99,451 people were approved for refugee status between 2005 and 2014. During the same time period, 104,177 people were rejected.

It’s unclear whether the number of people seeking refugee status in Canada will increase even more. However, after the “crackdown on illegal criminals” that Trump took responsibility for — and the travel ban halted in court — immigrant communities have been put even further on edge.

One agreement between Canada and the U.S. could become a problem for people seeking refugee status, Markusoff notes. That is the Safe Third County Agreement. Under the agreement, refugee claimants are “required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in unless they qualify for an exception to the agreement.”

Another potential problem is if the number of people seeking refugee status grows too much.

“If people started coming across the border en mass … that’s going to be a very big policy change,” Markusoff said.

And, he added, Canada doesn’t want to offend President Trump right now.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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Number of refugees crossing Canadian border quickly rising