The total number of would-be asylum seekers intercepted by the RCMP along Canada’s land borders last month dropped slightly, compared to the high of nearly 900 people recorded in March.
According to new numbers released by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on Monday, 859 people were intercepted by the police trying to cross the border and claim asylum in April.
The number is edging down after climbing from 315 in January, to 658 in February, to a high of 887 in March.
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April’s numbers bring the total interceptions of illegal border crossings since the beginning of 2017 to 2,719.
The vast majority of these asylum claimants are still crossing at points in Quebec and Manitoba, but Saskatchewan recorded nine RCMP interceptions in April, up from none at all in February and March.
The numbers of those intercepted in Quebec continued to rise, up to 672 in April from 644 in March. Meanwhile, the numbers in Manitoba and British Columbia fell.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, asylum seekers who cross at a legal checkpoint are automatically sent back (with a few exceptions) because they were on U.S. soil first.
Crossing away from a border checkpoint results in being arrested and taken to a local immigration or border services office, where a claim for asylum can be made.
A poll last month showed Canadians overwhelmingly want to see change in how the system treats asylum claimants.
The total number of asylum claims processed by the Canada Border Services Agency and the Immigration Department (at all offices, both at the borders and inland) since Jan. 1, 2017 now stands at 12,040.
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale noted the number of asylum claimants fluctuates over time and is largely unpredictable.
But Scott Bardsley says contingency plans remains in place to address the evolving volume of asylum seekers in the coming months.
Here’s a look at the numbers so far in 2017:
Interceptions by the RCMP
1,993: Interceptions in Quebec.
477: Interceptions in Manitoba.
14: Interceptions in Saskatchewan.
233: Interceptions in B.C.
1: Interception in each Alberta and New Brunswick.
6,425: Claims processed by Canada Border Services agents.
5,610: Claims processed by the Immigration Department.
12,040: Total of claims so far in 2017.
(Numbers do not add up because of rounding)
Total claims in previous years
2017 (Jan-April): 12,040
SOURCE: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
— With files from the Canadian Press