New citizens welcome: ‘We have capacity to deal with asylum seekers,’ says immigration minister

March 31, 2017

By Vancouver Sun |

As hundreds of asylum seekers continue to slip across the American border into B.C., the federal immigration minister is promising that Canada has the resources to handle all of the new arrivals.

Ahmed Hussen was on hand to watch 30 new Canadians take the oath of citizenship Wednesday at the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.’s Welcome Centre in east Vancouver. The freshly minted citizens hailed from 16 countries and included several former refugee claimants.

“The number of asylum seekers who are coming into our country is a little bit higher than previous years, but it fluctuates from year to year, and we have the capacity to deal with those fluctuations,” Hussen told reporters after the ceremony.

He continued: “The services are there. If there is a need for additional services, we’re also happy to look at that.”

In the first two months of this year, B.C. Mounties arrested 291 would-be refugees illicitly crossing the border from the U.S., where Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and attempts at immigration restrictions have many non-citizens fearing deportation. Across the country, RCMP officers have detained 1,134 people.

In B.C., most seem to be crossing near Peace Arch Park. If they are not arrested and sent to detention with the Canada Border Services Agency, one of their first stops will likely be at the Welcome Centre, where they can find help filing an inland refugee claim. In just the first 24 days of this month, the centre has seen 77 new people claiming refugee status, and an estimated 80 per cent of those people walked across the border. The biggest source countries have been Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Honduras and Mexico.

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