February 26, 2017 10:45 am

Most people crossing border illegally always planned to end up in Canada, minister says

WATCH: Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tells Vassy Kapelos his government is studying where the recent illegal immigrants crossing Canadian borders are coming from and that most of those people were using the U.S. as a transit point with no plans to stay there.

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Most of the asylum seekers who have been crossing the Canada-U.S. border illegally were always planning to end up in Canada, said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

“The vast majority … are actually transiting through the United States,” the minister said in an interview on The West Block.

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“Their plan was not originally to be in the United States, but to come through the United States,”

Goodale said officials at Public Safety, the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP are in the midst of analyzing the recent influx of foreigners crossing into Canada at unguarded points of the border with the United States.

READ MORE: Anyone crossing the border illegally whose claim is rejected will be sent home, not back to U.S.

The minister couldn’t provide an answer when asked why people are choosing to cross illegally into Canada if their goal was always to end up on Canadian soil.

“That’s a very good question,” he said. “That’s another part of our analysis.”

WATCH: Italian immigrant shares his journey amidst asylum seekers arriving in Winnipeg

Neither was Goodale able to answer when asked whether the asylum seekers are told to cross illegally or that they stand a better chance of being accepted into Canada if they cross illegally.

“It’s hard to tell … We’re taking all of these factors into account,” he said.

READ MORE: Why are asylum seekers crossing into Canada on foot and what are their rights?

Immigration lawyers and politicians have posited foreigners are crossing illegally as a way to exploit a loophole in an agreement between the U.S. and Canada.

The so-called Safe Third Country Agreement between the two countries forces people to apply for asylum in the first country they arrive – not both.

There are few exceptions to the agreement, mostly with an eye on keeping families together. But there is a loophole. If a person crosses at an unguarded portion of the border (as much of the almost 8,900-kilometre border is) they will not immediately be turned away.

READ MORE: Lack of resources makes border ‘vulnerable’ as refugees pour in: CBSA union

Instead, they will be arrested and start a claims process.

Goodale’s statement on the motivations of asylum seekers differs from what some of them have been saying.

WATCH: Manitoba premier demands action from Ottawa on asylum seekers

Earlier this month, members of the largest Somali community in the Unites States said they weren’t surprised to see a growing number of asylum seekers braving the elements to illicitly enter Canada; they said it’s a symptom of the contrast between U.S. President Donald Trump‘s hardline views on immigration and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s welcoming tone.

Though Goodale initially characterized the recent uptick in illegal crossing as “spontaneous,” he later conceded Trump’s politics “was obviously a trigger point for some people.”

As the situation develops and people continue to cross the border, Goodale said the RCMP and CBA are “watching very carefully.

“Clearly here, protecting Canadians is the number one obligation,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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