The number of people streaming from the U.S. to Canada seeking asylum skyrocketed last month, according to the latest Canadian government statistics released Tuesday.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have intercepted some 13,211 persons attempting to sneak into Canada so far in 2017, including a staggering 5,712 in August alone.
That’s up 82 percent compared to the 3,100 or so who were caught in July, and it continues a months-long trend that local officials said has been fueled by both a change in U.S. policy, and what the Canadian government says is a misimpression of how easy it is to gain a foothold there.
The numbers are still small compared to the southwestern border, where more than 30,000 illegal immigrants were nabbed either at the ports of entry or trying to sneak in between the official ports in August, according to the latest American government statistics.
But the U.S. numbers, while rising in recent months, are still well below the levels of recent years. Meanwhile, Canada’s going the other direction, with twice as many people nabbed jumping the border in August as in the entire year of 2016.
Asked about the surge, the Canadian government’s immigration bureau said they blame “misinformation” floating around — something the U.S. has also confronted.
“Social media messages on WhatsApp and other channels have been circulated that suggest the Canadian government gives asylum seekers a free pass into Canada. We would like to reiterate that these reports are entirely false,” said spokesperson Faith St. John.
Quebec accounts for 97 percent of the illegal border crossings into Canada, and Haitians are a large percentage of those making the attempts.
Many of those Haitians have been in the U.S. for years, protected by a temporary humanitarian relief program the Obama administration put in place after the 2010 earthquake. Tens of thousands of other Haitians sped to the U.S. last year, enticed by lax enforcement policies under the last administration and brought by the same social media channels that Canada says are now driving the migration north.
The Canadian immigration bureau spokesperson said they treat asylum seekers with compassion, and are “an open, welcoming country to people seeking refuge, whatever their ethnicity, background or religion.”
But the bureau said admittance “must be done through the proper channels,” and said there is no special treatment or offer for Haitians who are in danger of losing Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.
“We continue to implement a proactive strategy — both in Canada and in the U.S. — to increase awareness and understanding of Canada’s asylum system,” the spokesperson said.
Canada has been trying to get Haitians in the U.S. to lodge their asylum from where they are living now, rather than attempt to jump the border.
That’s the process that’s supposed to happen under a U.S.-Canadian agreement, but migrants have been ignoring police instructions and crossing anyway, according to news reports.
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