Canada frees asylum-seekers from its north

P.M. Stephen Harper became prime minister in 2006

Canada has lifted its policy of turning back asylum-seekers from entering the country at both official border crossings, but leaving Canada from unofficial ones in the Northern US.

The reversal is seen as a strategic move to prevent attempts by illegal border-crossers, or “illegal” immigrants, to enter Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was widely criticised last year for letting some such people enter.

There are about 55,000 to 70,000 irregular border-crossers crossing into Canada from the US, according to government figures.

The immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, said in a statement that Canada had “no plans to introduce any measures to restrict irregular migration into Canada”.

Under the policy, known as the “safe third country” initiative, people travelling to Canada from the US without showing an existing asylum-claim would be turned back.

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Under an early version of the initiative, “Americans would turn away Americans, just as Canadians turn away Canadians”, interior minister Diane Finley said at the time.

“But now, we are returning to what we did last year, and that’s to turn away only people who have already been determined by Canada’s relevant government agencies to be inadmissible to Canada,” she said.

Canada welcomed more than 34,000 asylum-seekers in 2017 alone.

Violence and famine in Somalia and Rwanda, and economic troubles in Zimbabwe, South Sudan and other places created a huge wave of people fleeing for asylum in Canada.

In August, the US and Canada signed a deal to ensure that people don’t try to claim asylum if they were simply planning to cross the border illegally.

In the wake of the deal, Canadian federal officials told the BBC and the New York Times that Canada would “no longer turn away people who have no intention of staying in Canada, but is turning back people who have crossed the border to make refugee claims when it is safe for them to do so”.

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