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News Briefs – Decrease in refugee applications

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The number of foreigners seeking refugee status in Canada dropped so sharply in early 2004 that the year-end total could prove to be the lowest in two decades, internal statistics show.

During the first five months of the year, 9,956 people sought asylum inside Canada — a 35% drop from the 15,379 newcomers who filed refugee claims during the same period last year.

That gap was widest in January and February, when claims were down by nearly 40%, according to a recent intelligence digest prepared by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

The data refers only to those people who filed refugee claims at locations inside Canada, such as airports and border crossings. Thousands of others come to Canada every year as privately or government-sponsored refugees.

Workers being recruited from Mexico

Canada is sending recruiters into the mountains and cities of Mexico in search of workers. More than 10,000 Mexicans work in Canada each year, mainly in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba.

The program was started to help fill worker shortages in agriculture, but has been so successful that Canadian officials are expanding it to urban, unemployed Mexicans who seek the low-skill jobs that Canadians don’t want, in construction, the hotel industry and meatpacking plants.

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