Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is on the ground in Nigeria this weekend, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has confirmed, as the government makes fresh efforts to stop the flow of asylum seekers crossing the Canada-U.S. border illegally.
Hussen announced last week that he would be heading to the West African nation to meet with government officials, but the specific dates were not provided. A majority of the people crossing the Canadian border between legal checkpoints this spring (in violation of the Customs Act) have been from Nigeria, many of them travelling on valid U.S. travel visas.
“We’ve raised this with both the Nigerian government, and (Hussen) is doing that again this week, and also with the American government,” said Goodale in an interview this weekend on The West Block.
“But we need more, and will continue to press on both of them because it’s their responsibility to help us stop this unconventional and obvious circumvention of Canadian law.”
WATCH: Solution to asylum seekers starts far from Canadian borders
Goodale said Ottawa has also begun efforts to reach out to diaspora communities in the United States affected by the termination of temporary protected status (TPS) for citizens of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Canada is making it clear to those people that if they choose to come north and cross the border between checkpoints, they’ll be arrested and subject to security screening and extensive vetting before being approved for asylum, Goodale reiterated.
“The Americans are responsible for their own positions and ideological stances,” the minister said of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.
“What we’ve said to them is that if you’re going to change your policy, with respect to people who have temporary status in the United States, for example, make sure you give us lots of notice so this doesn’t become a surprise at the last minute. And so far they are doing that.”
Goodale acknowledged that the number of people crossing the border this summer will likely be higher than last year. The government has made it clear to the United States that it wishes to negotiate potential updates to the Safe Third Country Agreement, he added, and “they are considering if they are interested in having a negotiation.”
WATCH: Canada seeks U.S. help turning away asylum seekers
A loophole in the agreement is at the heart of why so many asylum seekers are heading for illegal crossing points rather than showing up at designated, legal ones.
The Opposition Conservatives have been pushing the Liberals to apply the agreement along the entire length of the border, but department officials have argued that Canada can’t change the treaty unilaterally.
Approximately 7,500 asylum seekers crossed between checkpoints between January and April, and the number continues to increase daily.
“The situation in many other countries around the world is much more dramatic, much more difficult,” Goodale noted.
“The world is going through the largest dislocation of humanity, and human migration, that we’ve seen since the Second World War.”
— Watch the full interview with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale above.