Canada’s Refugee System Strained By Surge in Airport Asylum Claims

Canada's Refugee System Strained By Surge in Airport Asylum Claims
Canada immigration free assessment

Roughly 72,000 people made refugee claims at Canadian airports between 2019 and 2023, with a sharp uptick in the number of claims made at two of Canada’s largest airports, new data from the Immigration Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) shows.

While the Montreal Trudeau International Airport has witnessed a nearly 10-fold increase in refugee claims between 2022 and 2023, Toronto’s Pearson Airport has seen claims more than triple during that same time-frame.

On top of that, the government continues to struggle to process cases and remove people whose claims are rejected, as per new numbers from the Canada Border Services Agency.

The CBSA issued upwards of 28,000 “active warrants” to “failed refugee claimants” as of last month, and the government of Canada continues to struggle to deport those found inadmissible to the country on national security grounds, according to Global News.

While many refugee claimants are left in a limbo for years due to the massive application backlog, the ones who are deemed inadmissible are not deported immediately.

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The reason for this uptick can be largely associated to the closure of Roxham Road, which was an unofficial border crossing used by more than 100,000 migrants to come from New York State into the province of Quebec.

The crossing was shut down in late March after the US and Canada closed a loophole in the 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement to make the deal apply to the 8,900 kilometres of shared border between the states, instead of just at official border crossings, as per Global News.

There were 3,325 refugee claims made at Montreal’s airport in 2022. Next year, when Roxham Road was shut down, that number went up to 29,500, which was the highest number of refugee claims made at Canada’s airports between 2019 and 2023, primarily by Mexican nationals.

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More than 90 per cent of refugee claimants who came to Montreal by plane in 2023 were classified as “still waiting” for answer on whether they could continue their stay in Canada.

“There have often been huge backlogs. That’s why throwing more money at this particular problem isn’t a straightforward solution,” according to Michael Barutciski, a professor at York University’s Glendon College, who responded to Global News.

Ottawa re-introduced the visa requirement for Mexican nationals last month to control the exponential growth of asylum claims from Mexico – a majority of which were being rejected.

Canada immigration free assessment
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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.