OTTAWA, Aug. 14, 2018 /CNW/ - Members of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration came together yesterday to continue collective efforts and share latest information on flows and trends related to irregular migration and the asylum claimant situation in Canada.
Federal Minister of Transport and Task Force Chair, Marc Garneau, opened the meeting by thanking Task Force members for participating and for the ongoing commitment to collective engagement and collaboration. He announced that this would be his last meeting as Chair, expressing his appreciation for the hard work over the last year to advance coordinated measures to help manage issues related to irregular migration. The role of Chair will be passed on to federal Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Dominic LeBlanc.
He also announced that Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, would be spearheading and coordinating the federal effort on irregular migration going forward. Minister Blair will be replacing the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, on the Task Force.
Minister Hussen provided an operational update noting that after a spike in April, the number of asylum claimants irregularly crossing the border in Quebec has trended downward in July, with intercepts between ports of entry about half what they were at the same time last year. The Government remains well-positioned to respond should flows increase.
Minister Hussen also spoke about his recent meeting with Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, where they discussed northbound irregular migration trends, visa policy, and traveler screening, in addition to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is an international treaty that will require both parties to agree to any changes. Minister Hussen will continue discussions with Secretary Nielsen in the coming weeks.
In recognition that irregular border crossers are placing new pressures on some provinces to find temporary housing for asylum claimants, Minister Blair noted that the Government of Canada has transferred $11 million to the City of Toronto and $3 million to the Province of Manitoba.
The Government of Canada has also pledged $36 million to Quebec and discussions continue to address Quebec's requests for compensation with regard to costs associated with irregular migration. The federal government and the Government of Quebec continue to work closely together to ensure the orderly management of asylum seekers coming into Quebec.
Minister Blair added that the federal government has successfully prepared for possible future capacity challenges should interim lodging capacity be reached in Quebec. Additional sites are now operational should they be needed.
The federal government also worked closely with City of Toronto officials recently to help the city relocate asylum claimants who had been temporarily housed in college dorms. Securing hotel rooms for the city until September 30 will allow city officials time to find housing solutions as they normally do for those who use municipal shelters.
In addition, federal Ministers reaffirmed the commitment to implement a triage system to manage flows and ensure that asylum seekers are able to be housed in municipalities that have the capacity to do so. Work on this is progressing.
Although there has been a decrease in the number of irregular refugee claimants being intercepted at the border, Quebec's immigration minister, David Heurtel, indicated that nearly all of them are entering via Quebec and that the 2018 numbers will basically remain at 2017 levels, which was approximately 18,000. These refugee protection claimants are putting pressure on the education, social assistance, health and social services, legal aid, custody and immigration services offered by the Quebec government, in addition to temporary housing, and on the costs of these services. He reiterated the importance of reducing processing times for asylum applications in order to reduce those costs, and of quickly implementing the border triage system, given that the majority of asylum seekers have expressed a desire to settle outside of Quebec.
Toronto Mayor John Tory recognized that progress has been made and expressed his gratitude for collaborative efforts so far, but noted that there is still work needed. He called on all levels of government to be involved in a robust and coordinated effort to redirect refugee claimants to municipalities where there are jobs and housing. Mayor Tory also noted that the flow of refugee claimants arriving in Toronto's shelter system has not abated and that without immediate action the city could be forced to explore emergency measures.
Minister Garneau concluded the meeting by thanking all members for a productive meeting, adding that he was deeply appreciative of everybody's effort and hard work in tackling the irregular migration situation.
"Continuing cooperation among all levels of government will be essential in going forward as we work to manage this challenge."
– The Honourable Marc Garneau, Chair of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration
"The Government of Canada is addressing the current situation and is working closely with provinces and municipalities to implement our contingency plans. The federal government is helping to alleviate the strain this has placed on provinces and municipalities by providing funding, and developing a triage and transit plan to redirect individuals away from larger urban centres where the current pressures are most acute."
– The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
"While we recognize that the situation involving irregular migration has created some strain on certain regions, it is important that Canadians be aware of the facts. The Government has a plan to deal with the irregular migrant situation. At the current time, the numbers are down compared to last summer and the Government of Canada is helping to support regions that have felt additional pressure over the last year."
– The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
"I am looking forward to continuing the work of the Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration. We will keep collaborating with our partners to manage irregular border crossings with compassion and in accordance with international law."
– The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade
- From January 1 to July 31, 2018, the RCMP intercepted 12,329 asylum seekers crossing between ports of entry. Of those, 11,763 were in Québec.
- In July 2018 there were 1,552 claims between the port arrivals in Quebec, on average, 50 asylum claims per day compared to 2,996 total and an average 101 per day in July 2017; in June 2018 there were 1,179 arrivals, on average, 39 per day; in May 2018 there were 1,775 arrivals, on average, 57 per day; in April 2018 there were 2,479 arrivals, on average, 83 per day.
SOURCE Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
For further information: Contacts for media only, For questions related to irregular migration: Media Relations, Communications Branch, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 613-952-1650, [email protected]; For questions related to the Task Force: Vincent Hughes, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, 613-943-7111, [email protected]