As U.S. clamps down on asylum seekers, Canada is urged to do more

With most migrants who have passed through Mexico now barred from seeking asylum in the United States, refugee advocates are asking Canada to do more to help.

The U.S. has been overwhelmed with more than 100,000 migrants a month flooding across its southern border with Mexico. Most of them are fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration declared Mexico a “safe” country for migrants, which means those who have passed through Mexico won’t get hearings in the U.S. to determine whether they are refugees in need of protection. That means far more are likely to seek asylum in Mexico.

UNHCR Canada’s Jean-Nicolas Beuze says that although Mexico is increasingly capable of handling asylum seekers, it needs Canada’s help to cover the cost of staffing, offices and training.

Beuze said the UN is counting on Canada “to support, for example, the Mexican asylum system to reinforce its capacity to asses claims and to see to which extent asylum seekers can be protected in Mexico.”

The UN has also asked Canada to permanently resettle more of those fleeing. Canada already resettles more people than any other country, including the United States, but the vast majority of them are from the Middle East rather than Central America.

According to Beuze, the Trump administration’s new rule is “not in line with international obligations.” He said that although Mexico is increasingly protecting the human rights of asylum seekers, people from the LGBT community and those fleeing gang violence “are still at risk of being killed or subjected to persecution in Mexico.”

The Trump administration has taken a harder line against immigrants since the start. That has caused many to try Canada instead. Although Canada considers the U.S. a “safe” country for asylum seekers, those who cross between manned border crossings are still welcome to refugee hearings here.

There were 19,419 asylum seekers intercepted between Canadian border crossings in 2018 and 20,593 intercepted in 2017. There were 6,707 interceptions in the first half of 2019.

Ottawa immigration lawyer Arghavan Gerami says the U.S.’s decision to designate Mexico a safe country could lead to another wave of people seeking refuge in Canada.

“We are already seeing and have been seeing that increase in the number of refugees and the number of refugee claimants,” she said. “We didn’t have that trend before Trump came into power.”