Mexico again among Canada’s top sources of refugee claims after visa requirement lifted

February 24, 2018

By Stewart Bell, Globe News |

Refugee claims by Mexicans have increased sharply since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau allowed citizens of the country to enter Canada without travel visas, new figures show.

Almost 1,500 citizens of Mexico had refugee claims referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2017 — six times more than in the previous year, when they totaled just 250.

A declassified Intelligence Brief obtained by Global News linked the growing number of claims directly to the federal government’s decision to lift the visa requirement on Dec. 1, 2016.

“The ease of visa-free travel … to Canada is a key pull factor at this time,” said the Canada Border Services Agency report, released under the Access to Information Act.

Ottawa imposed a visa requirement on visitors from Mexico in July 2009, after the country became Canada’s top source of refugee claims, which totaled 9,000 that year, most of which were rejected.

Subsequently, claims by Mexican citizens fell to 86 in 2014, and 111 in 2015. But during the 2015 federal election campaign, Trudeau made lifting the visa requirement part of his platform.

“Lifting the visa requirement will deepen ties between Canada and Mexico and will increase the flow of travellers, ideas, and businesses between both countries,” Trudeau said in his announcement.

Just over a year later, Mexico has already climbed back into the top tier of source countries for Canada’s refugee claimants, now ranking 6th with 1,459 referred claims, after Haiti, Nigeria, Turkey, Pakistan and India.

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative immigration critic, said she wanted to know what the government was doing in co-operation with Mexico to make sure the situation did not worsen.

She said lifting the visa requirement on Romanian citizens on Dec. 1, 2017, had also resulted in more refugee claims. Officials said last week that 232 Romanians had made claims since the visa lift. In 2017, only nine Romanian claims were accepted by the IRB.

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