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Spike in Nigerian asylum seekers at Canada-U.S. border sparks new federal measures

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The Government of Canada has announced new measures to address the surging number of Nigerians who are crossing into Canada from the United States and claiming asylum.

More than 7,000 people have been intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police so far in 2018 after crossing into Canada at unofficial entry points, including 2,500 who crossed into Quebec in the month of April alone. The majority of those intercepted have been Nigerians with a valid visitor’s visa for the United States.

On Monday, Canada’s ministers of immigration, public security and transportation provided an update on federal efforts to ensure U.S. travel visas aren’t being abused.

Chief among the new measures is the assigning of three Canadian officials to help U.S. visa officers in the Nigerian capital Lagos.

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, will also travel to Nigeria this month to discuss the issue with government representatives there.

Refugees welcome, but no ‘free ticket’ for everyone

The federal ministers said Canada will continue to adhere to international conventions and offer asylum to those fleeing persecution and war, but warned those seeking “a free ticket to Canada.”

“As a matter of due process, asylum seekers are required to prove their claim for protection. Those who cannot do so become inadmissible and will be removed,” said Canada’s Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale.

As to asylum seekers already in Canada, IRCC said it had accelerated the processing of work permits to 30 days to minimize the amount of time new claimants spend on social assistance.

IRCC also said progress was being made on a new triage system that will expedite the transfer of asylum claimants who do not wish to remain in Quebec to their final destinations.

According to CTV News, Hussen said he expects the backlog of asylum cases will be eliminated by 2019.

The federal government has committed $173.2 million over the next two years to strengthen border security and speed up the processing of asylum claims made in 2018-2019. The current processing time for claims is around 20 months.

Safe Third Country Agreement

These developments follow news that American officials are studying amendments proposed by Canada to its Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which deems both countries safe havens for refugees and limits who can claim asylum at official border crossings between the two countries.

The Government of Canada has been under pressure to revise if not scrap the agreement in light of policies introduced by U.S. President Donald Trump to reduce the number of immigrants and refugees allowed into the United States.

Canada’s federal government has denied that it is seeking to formally renegotiate the 14-year-old pact, but Hussen acknowledged recently that conversations are taking place and there was “room for improvement.”

Canada’s Liberal government, meanwhile, has dismissed calls by the Conservative Party of Canada to designate the entire Canada-U.S. border an official crossing, which would remove the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that has allowed thousands to gain entry at unofficial crossings and claim asylum in Canada.

Learn the facts about claiming refugee status in Canada.

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