Canada seeks to 'aggressively' dispel asylum system myths

Media caption,
Hundreds of migrants are illegally crossing the US border into Canada each day

Canada is reaching out directly to the Haitian community in the US in an effort to stem the number of migrants crossing the border illegally.

In the first half of August, 3,800 migrants arrived in the province of Quebec seeking asylum.

Most are Haitians who fear they will be deported if they stay in the US.

Government officials are now redoubling efforts to counteract misinformation helping bring them to Canada's doorstep.

Nearly 60,000 Haitians were offered temporary protection in the US after a devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. The Trump administration extended that temporary protection until January 2018.

Canada completely lifted its own protected status for Haitians a year ago. In 2016, about 50% of all asylum claims by Haitians was rejected.

On Monday, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale warned that "people should not think that border-hopping is a desirable or productive thing to do".

Canadian diplomatic staff in the US have been trying to "aggressively dispel the myths" about coming to Canada circulating south of the border, including that residency is guaranteed, said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Federal Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg, who is of Haitian origin and speaks Creole, has been tasked with engaging extensively with Haitian media in American cities like Miami and New York.

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Over the weekend, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also addressed the issue.

"Canada is an opening and welcoming society," he told journalists at a news conference in Montreal on Sunday.

"But let me be clear. We are also a country of laws. Entering Canada irregularly is not an advantage. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake."

Mr Trudeau has been criticised over his government's refugee-friendly message and "irresponsible tweets" by opposition politicians who argue that those helped encouraged the surge.

Canadian officials are also trying to counteract the spread of misinformation online about the openness of Canada's asylum system.

Since January, 7,500 migrants have crossed illegally into Canada.

The majority are crossing into Quebec, where migrant numbers more than tripled between June and July to 2,996 from 781. In the first half of August, 3,800 migrants crossed seeking asylum in the province.

The federal government has increased the number of staff in the region in order to help process claims that determine whether a migrant is eligible to make a refugee claim. There is currently a five-month wait.