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Immigration Minister Discusses Increase in Asylum Claims with Canada and Mexico

Regulations must be put in place to address an increase in the number of asylum claimants from Mexico seeking entry into Canada, some of which are “bad actors,” says Immigration Minister Marc Miller.

“We certainly need to turn the screws a bit, whether it’s a quarter turn or full turn is something that’s still being determined, something I can’t share with you publicly,” Mr. Miller told reporters Jan. 22 during a Montreal press conference during a three-day cabinet retreat.

Mr. Miller’s comments come as Ottawa holds diplomatic talks with Mexico to deal with the increase in asylum claims from that country. Canada has seen an increased volume of Mexican asylum seekers since the visa requirements to travel to Canada from Mexico were removed in 2016 as a part of a trade agreement with the country.

While noting the increase has resulted in some “economic benefit” and Mexico is one of Canada’s “principal economic partners,” Mr. Miller acknowledged that potential new measures could not be discussed publicly because some “bad actors” might use the information to “game the system.”

“So, any measures that we would contemplate require a diplomatic process that is not yet completed,” said Mr. Miller.

His remarks come in the wake of Quebec Premier Francois Legault reaching out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a plea to regulate the flow of asylum seekers into the province, expressing concern that the situation is approaching a “breaking point.”

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In a letter to Mr. Trudeau on Jan. 17, Mr. Legault emphasized the urgency of the situation.

“We are very close to the breaking point due to the excessive number of asylum seekers arriving in Quebec month after month,” Mr. Legault wrote. “The situation has become unsustainable.”

In the first 11 months of 2023, Quebec saw the registration of almost 60,000 new asylum seekers, a situation that Premier Legault described as exerting “very significant pressure” on many of Quebec’s public services.

Mr. Miller acknowledged the difficulties Quebec was facing, noting that Ontario is also disproportionally affected.

“The people come, certainly, to the large urban centers like Montreal and Toronto, but what we measure less are those that cross the border [into Quebec] or arrive at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport [in Montreal] and pass into Ontario; it is not measurable,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller vowed that the government was making an effort to “redistribute” these people throughout the country.

Following up on Mr. Miller’s remarks, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly expressed her confidence in Canada’s immigration system.

“Regardless of what we decide to do in the case of Mexico… we have a good relationship with Mexico and we will continue to have a good relationship with Mexico,” she said.

At the same press conference, Mr. Miller declared a provisional limit on new student visas. The decision comes as affordability and housing dominate the retreat’s agenda, highlighting the significant impact that unprecedented levels of immigration are having on these issues.

The federal government plans to reduce the number of new visas issued to international students by more than one-third this year. The move is part of an effort to decelerate the swift rise in temporary residents, which has heavily strained Canada’s housing infrastructure.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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