OTTAWA, Nov. 24, 2017 /CNW/ - Members of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration reconvened yesterday to provide updates and discuss next steps in addressing irregular migration at border crossings.
Federal Minister and Task Force Chair, Marc Garneau, welcomed all members of the Task Force and thanked them for their support and their efforts in tackling this situation over the last few months.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, and Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, proceeded by updating the Task Force on the federal government's most recent efforts to address irregular migration.
Minister Goodale praised the seamless cooperation between departments, partners and other levels of government to manage the situation. He added that while the number of asylum seekers irregularly crossing the border at Lacolle has decreased since the high of about 200-250 a day seen during the summer, this fall, about 60 people a day continue to be intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in the area. Minister Goodale also reported on his productive discussion on the issue with the United States' Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, during a bilateral meeting at the G7 Interior Ministers' Meeting in Italy last month.
Given the potential for an increase in irregular migrants following the recent U.S. decision to terminate the temporary protection status (TPS) of Nicaraguans and Haitians, Minister Goodale stressed that we cannot afford to become complacent and that we must be ready for every possible scenario. As such, a national strategic response plan was developed in collaboration with the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA), the RCMP, Public Safety, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The National Plan is based on lessons observed at Lacolle and Cornwall, and is both scalable and flexible, providing high-level guidance to enable regional planning for a potential increase.
Plans are also being developed at the regional level in collaboration with provincial officials to prepare for the eventuality of another surge of asylum seekers. These plans will be based on the National Plan, and will provide a framework and guidelines to partners to address regional differences. Regional response plans in British Columbia and Manitoba will be tested shortly, and are based on lessons learned in Quebec. Exercises in other regions will follow.
For his part, Minister Hussen highlighted IRCC's progress in reducing the number of eligibility decisions that accumulated over the course of the summer. The inventory currently stands at less than 500 cases, from a peak of about 6,000 in mid-August. He also indicated that eligibility interviews are currently being conducted within one week of the asylum seeker's arrival. IRCC is also continuing to fast track work permit applications from asylum claimants across Canada with an average processing time of under 30 days. To date, IRCC has issued more than 4,100 work permits.
Minister Hussen noted that in response to the current situation, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) created a special response team. For refugee claims finalized to date, acceptance rates reflect the diversity of claimants' countries of origin. For example, the acceptance rate for Haitians stands at 10% and approximately 46% for Nigerians. Minister Hussen also spoke about the continuing outreach efforts undertaken in the U.S. to disseminate the correct information about Canada's laws and asylum system to immigrant and TPS-affected communities. He added that the Government of Canada continues to work collaboratively with U.S. officials to develop solutions to address irregular migration.
Member of Parliament Randy Boissonnault visited Miami on November 18 and 19, where he met with local leaders and influencers from the Haitian and Hispanic communities. Members of Parliament Pablo Rodriguez and Emmanuel Dubourg provided details on their separate visits to New York City this week where they met with key immigration organizations, elected officials, and numerous media outlets, and connected with Hispanic, Haitian and broader immigrant communities. Mr. Dubourg underlined the importance of proactive outreach in various languages, in both Canada and the U.S., to ensure a full understanding of Canada's immigration system.
Minister Hussen also mentioned that over the last several months, Canada's Embassy in Washington, D.C. and its network of 12 consulates in the United States have engaged over 40 U.S. decision-makers including members of Congress, governors and lieutenant-governors, and have met with more than 300 community leaders, non-governmental organizations, diplomatic representatives, as well as municipal, county and state-level officials in communities across the country.
Quebec's Minister of Immigration, David Heurtel noted that the province of Quebec is also actively involved in proactive outreach both within Quebec and outside of Canada. He reported on his recent meeting with the Consul General of the U.S. in Montreal, where he re-affirmed the importance of close collaboration with the U.S.
Ontario's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Laura Albanese highlighted the province's response in August 2017, providing support to approximately 300 asylum seekers, after they were temporarily relocated from Quebec to Cornwall. As part of this initiative, Ontario worked with service providers to offer an onsite health clinic, emergency assistance, orientation sessions about the refugee determination process, and newcomer services. Provincial Emergency Operations staff were deployed to support a strong and coordinated response. Minister Albanese explained that lessons learned from the Cornwall experience will inform Ontario's response to future arrivals.
"Federal and Provincial representatives have spoken several times this fall to discuss this issue and its impact on our country. We will continue our close collaboration, along with the cooperation of the US, to ensure the sustained integrity of our system and our shared border."
The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister and Chair of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration
"We continue to have an open dialogue with the U.S., and we are working together to develop solutions to minimize the influx of irregular migrants."
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
"We have depicted the very specific experience in Quebec in connection with increased irregular border crossings since last summer. By drawing on that hands-on experience we can address any eventualities and improve our concerted efforts. The Government of Quebec is continuing to monitor the situation closely, in order to respond to a potential migration flow."
The Honourable David Heurtel, Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness
"Through this task force, Ontario is working closely with the governments of Canada and Quebec to engage early on matters of irregular migration. With early discussion and information we can plan proactively, engage with municipalities and keep communities updated."
The Honourable Laura Albanese, Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
- The creation of the Task Force was announced on August 17, 2017, by the Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, and former Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness, Kathleen Weil.
- The Task Force works on issues related to the recent and sustained increase in asylum seekers entering Canada from the U.S.
- Chaired by federal Minister Marc Garneau, the Task Force is composed of federal ministers: Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, and Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan; as well as the Member of Parliament for Bourassa, Emmanuel Dubourg; Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness David Heurtel and Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Laura Albanese.
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, IRCC.COMMMediaRelations-RelationsmediasCOMM.IRCC@cic.gc.ca; For questions related to the Task Force: Delphine Denis, Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Ottawa, 613-991-0700, firstname.lastname@example.org