Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Quebec confirmed that a family of three was arrested in Hemmingford, Que. Saturday morning after illegally crossing the border into Canada to apply for refugee status.
Reports indicate the family is originally from Syria, one of the seven countries targeted by President Donald Trump’s now defunct travel ban.
RCMP spokeswoman Corporal Camille Habel said the number of illegal crossings into the country has increased recently, with the most significant increase being seen in Quebec.
She explained that Quebec was a popular destination due to the proximity of big city centres on either side of the border.
“There’s Plattsburgh, Philadelphia, New York and the Lacolle border is close to an airport on the American side.”
As well as Quebec, provinces like Manitoba and British Columbia are also seeing rising numbers of illegal crossings in recent months, RCMP said. Twenty refugees walked across the border in Manitoba this morning.
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The number of refugee applicants crossing the land border under exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) has risen by 16 percent in the first nine months of 2016 compared to the same time period the year before, Reuters reports.
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Introduced in 2004, the STCA requires people to apply for asylum in the first of the two countries they arrive in to prevent the clogging of immigration systems. Advocates say the agreement inadvertently encourages people to sneak into Canada undetected and make a claim inland rather than risk being turned away at the border.
WATCH: Canadian officials see surge in refugee claimants
During an emergency meeting in the House of Commons to discuss the matter on Jan. 31, Trudeau’s Liberals stood firm saying the United States hasn’t violated any of the terms in the agreement.
READ MORE: Toronto doctor helps refugees fleeing U.S. for asylum in Canada
Habel wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Saturday’s arrests in Hemmingford, near the Lacolle border crossing, but did say the family could be detained up to 24 hours, although that is rarely the case.
“We patrol the border between ports of entry and whenever someone crosses without reporting themselves they’ve committed an offense under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” she said. “We arrest them under that law.”
The asylum seekers are then detained for questioning and given access to medical treatment if it is required.
“Basically we want to see if all they did is cross the border, we need to make sure there were no criminal code offenses.”
According to Habel, if no red flags are raised, the Canadian Border Services Agency takes over and the immigration process starts.
— With files from Andrew Russell and Reuters