OTTAWA, Jan. 10, 2018 /CNW/ - The Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration met yesterday to discuss latest progress and ongoing coordinating efforts to address irregular migration.
Federal Minister and Task Force Chair, Marc Garneau, opened the meeting by reiterating his strong appreciation for the hard work being carried out by all levels of government and community organizations that have helped to manage irregular migration.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, reported on the progress made over the last five months in implementing faster processing, issuing Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) coverage and work permits, and reducing the eligibility interview inventory.
Minister Hussen mentioned that significant work was completed in response to the irregular migration movement, most notably, reducing the backlog of claimants waiting for an eligibility interview from a peak of about 6,000 in August to 238 in mid-December.
He added that almost 10,000 work permits were issued to irregular migrants so they can better support themselves and processing times were less than 30 days. The Minister has also extended the IFHP coverage to asylum seekers arriving between ports of entry in Lacolle until April 30, 2018.
There has been ongoing engagement at various levels focused on information sharing and capacity building. Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, spoke to his U.S. counterpart several times to discuss the issue of irregular migration and its impact on both countries. This enhanced engagement has resulted in an agreement by senior officials to meet on a regular basis.
Minister Hussen provided details on the continuing outreach being undertaken in the U.S. by federal departments and Canadian missions to share and correct any misinformation about Canada's immigration system. During a recent visit with the East and West African-American communities in Minneapolis, Minister Hussen also met with Governor Mark Dayton to outline Canada's approach to immigration and concerns with irregular migration.
Member of Parliament, Pablo Rodriguez, travelled to Houston and Dallas, Texas, on November 27 and 28 where he met with stakeholders in local and state governments, community leaders, Spanish language media, immigration service providers, and the Mexican and Central American consulates. In light of the recent U.S. decision to end the Temporary Protection Status of Salvadorians, Mr. Rodriguez will also be travelling to Los Angeles next week to conduct more outreach activities.
Furthermore, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has launched a targeted advertising campaign to reach key populations in the U.S. to inform them of the risks of irregular border crossings, and to emphasize that crossing the border illegally is not a free ticket to Canada.
Minister Hussen pointed out that they have adapted some of their contingency planning to adequately address potential future irregular movement not only in Quebec, but in other provinces as well.
Tabletop exercises were also recently conducted by Public Safety Canada with partners in British Columbia and Manitoba in early December to examine and validate their respective plans. Another tabletop exercise is scheduled for Quebec in February.
Minister Heurtel mentioned that the Government of Quebec continues to monitor the situation closely and that they will be able to quickly deploy the necessary resources should there be a surge in the number of refugee protection claimants crossing the Canadian border and heading for Quebec.
He added that the situation in the summer of 2017 highlighted how important it is that the federal and provincial governments share information. Minister Heurtel noted that good collaboration will mean that intervention plans will be better synchronized, resulting in service delivery that is adapted to the circumstances.
The Government of Quebec has ensured for its part that its service provision remains relevant and effective, particularly in terms of ensuring protection and delivery of basic social services and temporary housing, fostering the integration of refugee protection claimants into the labour market and expediting access to permanent housing.
The Government of Ontario noted that although there have been no reported interceptions of irregular arrivals in Ontario, the province is seeing asylum seekers arriving through secondary migration. They added that they look forward to continued work with federal partners to develop plans that meet provincial needs, while ensuring early engagement with affected municipalities and service providers. They concluded by saying that, beyond immediate issues, contingency planning must look to address longer term requirements and they look forward to taking part in a future tabletop exercise with federal partners.
Minister Hussen concluded the meeting by thanking his provincial counterparts for their close cooperation over the past number of months.
The Task Force will continue to collaborate and share information moving forward.
"I am encouraged by the progress that has been made in recent months to address irregular migration. Our collaborative and ongoing efforts have resulted in improved measures and strategies to respond to this situation."
The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister and Chair of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration
"We will continue to work closely with the federal government to ensure that the interventions of the Canadian and Quebec governments are better synchronized. With the experience we have gained, and having developed our field-level expertise during the summer of 2017 when there was a significant surge in refugee protection claimants, Quebec will be ready to effectively handle the possibility of a large number of refugee protection claimants."
David Heurtel, Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness
"Ontario is committed to addressing the needs of all newcomers, including asylum claimants. Our government will continue to collaborate with our federal partners to adapt the national contingency plan for irregular migration, in order to meet the needs specific to our province. All newcomers to Ontario deserve supports that are appropriate to their needs."
Laura Albanese, Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
- In 2017, over 20,593 asylum claims were made between Ports of Entry. Ninety-one percent of these individuals were intercepted in Quebec.
- Almost 10,000 work permits have been issued since April 1st, within the 30-day service standard. The approval rate for work permits has been very high, at 97%.
SOURCE Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
For further information: 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: Delphine Denis, Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Ottawa, 613-991-0700, [email protected]