Few asylum-seekers have been removed

The Canadian Press
Teresa Wright

OTTAWA–Confusion over the number of irregular migrants that have been removed from Canada led to an apology yesterday from Border Security minister Bill Blair–and attracted fresh calls from Opposition MPs for more action to address ongoing border woes.
Over the weekend, Blair created a hornet’s nest of criticism when he told Global News in an interview that the “overwhelming majority” of asylum-seekers who have crossed irregularly into Canada over the last 21 months have left the country.
But the government’s own numbers tell a much different story.
Newly-released figures show Canadian officials have removed only a handful of the hundreds of irregular migrants who arrived in Canada while they already were facing deportation orders from the United States.
The numbers, tabled recently in the House of Commons, show nearly 900 irregular migrants intercepted by the Mounties in Canada since April, 2017 already were under removal orders issued by American authorities.
As of late June, only six of these people had been removed from Canada.
Meanwhile, the overall number of irregular migrants who have been deported or removed from Canada also remains low.
Since early 2017, more than 34,000 asylum-seekers have crossed into Canada through unofficial points. To date, only 398–or about one percent–have been removed.
Blair issued an apology yesterday afternoon, saying he “clearly misspoke” when he said the majority of asylum-seekers have left the country.
“They have not. They await disposition of their claim,” he said. “Sorry for the obvious confusion that I caused.”
Later, Blair explained to reporters that he was trying to explain a different point, but that he “did so inadequately” and immediately took steps to clarify his remarks and apologize–first in a tweet on Sunday and later in the formal statement issued yesterday afternoon.
As for why the number of removals remains so low, Blair explained border officials only can remove failed refugee claimants after they have exhausted all legal options available to try for refugee status.
These options include applications to the Immigration and Refugee Board, appeals, and other administrative measures.
Canada has a legal responsibility under United Nations’ obligations to allow refugee claimants access to all these legal avenues.
“They’ve made application and are entitled to due process,” Blair said.
“Only upon the conclusion of all of those processes can steps then be taken to remove those individuals that are not eligible,” he noted.
“That’s what I was trying to explain but did so poorly on Friday.”
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said she believes the numbers suggest Canada’s asylum system is being heavily-backlogged by people who are not legitimate refugees.
The extensive processing backlog that exists for refugee claims is creating an incentive for people looking to take advantage of Canada’s refugee system, knowing they could wait an average of 20 months before their refugee claims are processed, Rempel noted.
“In a properly-functioning asylum system, we should be prioritizing the world’s most vulnerable,” she stressed.
“We should be processing asylum claims quickly and then removing people who don’t have a legal reason to be in Canada.
“The fact that even those that have been processed and don’t have a valid reason to be in Canada have not been removed is something that is concerning because Canadians are footing the bill for them being in Canada,” Rempel added.