Grassroots groups assisting refugees already seeing a surge of asylum seekers
By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Canada could see more asylum seekers from Mexico because of U.S. President Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies, the U.N. and refugee advocates said.
Given Trump's calls to build a wall along the Mexico border and to ban refugees, Mexican migrants may try to head straight to Canada, they said.
One scenario is "that people will … jump straight to come to Canada – by air, by plane – and launch an asylum claim here in Canada," Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the head of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR in Canada said in a telephone interview.
"When the direct crossing into neighboring countries is made more difficult by administrative measures, new policies, new laws, or in this case a wall, people ... look at other options," he said.
Shortly after taking office on Jan. 20, Trump declared an executive order spelling out immigration restrictions that include a four-month ban on all refugees from entering the United States.
A federal judge in Seattle, in Washington state, on Friday temporarily blocked Trump's order. But a federal appeals court was poised to hear arguments over whether to restore the ban on Tuesday afternoon.
Trump, a Republican, also wants to build a wall over the U.S. southern border to keep out Mexican migrants, a promise he made repeatedly as he campaigned.
At the Montreal-based TCRI, a coalition of non-profits providing services to refugees and immigrants, director Stephan Reichhold said grassroots groups assisting refugees were already seeing a surge of asylum seekers.
"Clearly there's been a massive increase (of asylum seekers) since Jan. 20," he said on Tuesday in a telephone interview conducted in French.
"Accommodation for asylum seekers in Montreal has been overflowing over the last few weeks."
A recent tweet by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which he invited refugees to come to Canada also had "created an enthusiasm that will make (them) want to come to Canada," Reichhold said.
Still, Ottawa remains bound by an accord with Washington, the Safe Third Country Agreement, under which it must refuse asylum-seeking claims from people entering Canada from the United States, he said.
The number of Mexicans seeking asylum in Canada dropped sharply after a 2009 rule obliging Mexican visitors to obtain visas to crackdown on a flood on bogus refugee claims.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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