OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Monday crossing the border illegally is not a "free ticket" into Canada; however, it may be a long-term pass for those coming from a number of war-torn countries, including Somalia.
Canada currently has a moratorium on deporting anyone to 12 countries and locations, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, because of a humanitarian crisis, war or an environmental disaster. It will only send people back to those countries if they are convicted of a crime or human rights infractions or are deemed to be a security risk.
It means many of the asylum claimants who sought refuge in Canada via the United States this year might get to stay in the country long term even if their asylum claims are rejected.
While in this limbo they can apply for work permits, receive social assistance and if-or-when Canada eventually lifts the ban on deportations, they will be allowed to apply for permanent resident status before being deported.
That includes many claimants from Somalia. There are three regions in that country, including the capital Mogadishu, where Canada will not currently deport people under what is known as an administrative deferral of removal.
While the Canada Border Services Agency doesn’t yet have specific statistics on the origins of the asylum claimants coming into Manitoba, it has confirmed most are from Somalia and Djibouti. The latter has no ban on deportations from Canada.
Data provided by the Immigration and Refugee Board show 16,279 people were allowed to make a claim for asylum with the board in the first nine months of 2016. It is the most recent data available.
Of those, 3,715 or almost one in four are from one of the 12 countries or territories with one of the temporary deportation bans. It is not known how these people arrived in Canada, but the number will include those who arrived using a valid visitors visa or work visa, and those who found their way into the country illegally.
Thus far, Canada accepted the claims of 2,281 of them and rejected 452. Another 118 claims were withdrawn or abandoned before being processed. The remainder are still in the works.
Goodale’s spokesman said Monday granting temporary residence to those who can’t be deported for safety reasons is not permanent residency. The deportation bans can be lifted at any time.
However, in previous instances when the bans were lifted, Canada provides people facing deportation a period of time within which to apply for permanent residency.
Canada did this for citizens of Haiti and Zimbabwe in 2014, for example.
Conservative public safety critic Tony Clement said Monday he is concerned Canada has opened the doors to refugees so widely it is now encouraging criminal elements to set up businesses charging people to ferry them to the Canadian border.
He said if people see this as an easy route to Canada, and know they likely won’t be deported, it will add further fuel to the criminal business of human smuggling.
"I do believe we are now in a situation where the rhetoric of this government is ‘we will welcome anybody,’ " he said. "The message is ‘come on in.’ "
He also expressed concern that the number of deportations Canada is conducting has gone down over the past five years.
In 2012, Canada issued 15,752 deportation orders and deported 18,982 people. Last year, Canada issued 16,298 deportation orders but only deported 7,098 people.