As ministers from the Quebec government prepare for a meeting with federal officials Wednesday over fears of a spring spike in illegal migrant border crossings, the Conservatives are doubling down in their call for the Liberals to crack down and put an end to the flow.
Since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who campaigned on anti-immigrant rhetoric, there has been a spike in individuals who had arrived in the U.S. with the intention of making an application to stay, instead travelling north and crossing the border illegally into Canada.
Much of that has happened so far at the border in Emerson, Man., and Lacolle, Que., where officials now say their resources are stressed to the breaking point and that they need federal help.
“First of all, we have to stop,” said Pierre Paul-Hus, Conservative public safety critic, who represents the Quebec riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
“The prime minister has to send a strong message around the world saying if you want to come to Canada, you have to ask (for) your place like all other immigrants. A lot of people come in the U.S., (then) cross the border because they see it’s a gap there. The province of Quebec has put in a request asking Canada to block this flow of illegal migrants, to support it, to do something right now.”
WATCH BELOW: Focus Montreal: Illegal border crossings
Roughly 75 per cent of the 25,000 asylum seekers who crossed into Quebec last year did so illegally and the government is anticipating a surge in migrants arriving again this year.
According to provincial estimates from the Quebec government, more than 6,600 migrants have arrived so far in 2018, many on expired visitor visas that allowed them entry to the U.S., and many coming from politically unstable Nigeria.
Up to 400 are projected to arrive each day once the warm weather arrives this summer.
Speaking in French, Paul-Hus also called the situation “a major problem” and said the rules need to be enforced.
Federal officials have been working to stem the flow of illegal migrants for more than a year following a tweet by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming refugees to Canada.
That tweet, which came one day after Trump issued an executive order banning refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, has been widely criticized by Conservatives for causing a surge in illegal border crossings by migrants.
Emails subsequently obtained by the National Post showed that tweet caused mass confusion among officials, who began receiving a deluge of inquiries about how to get refugee status in Canada.
Since then, the Liberals have dispatched members of their caucus to the U.S. to speak with communities believed to be particularly inclined to consider crossing the Canadian border illegally, such as Haitians who were concerned about the termination by Trump of a temporary residency permit created for them in the aftermath of a devastating 2010 earthquake.
An end to Temporary Protected Status for people living in the U.S. from El Salvador, Sudan and Nicaragua has also been announced by Trump, and decisions on the future of the status for people from Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen and Somalia is expected this year.
A meeting of the Ad-Hoc Task Force on Irregular Migration is scheduled for Wednesday night.
WATCH: Trump says Macron elected on similar platform, targeted ‘uncontrolled migration’