Number of irregular border crossings plunges again between May and June

A group of asylum seekers walk down the street
A group of asylum seekers walk down the street as they are escorted from their tent encampment to be processed at Canada Border Services in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

For the second month in a row, the number of people crossing the Canada-U.S. border between legal checkpoints has dropped significantly, down 32 per cent between May and June of this year.

New numbers were released on Friday, revealing that the RCMP intercepted a total of 1,273 people at the border last month, down from 1,869 in May. In April, the total was 2,560.

June’s total is the smallest of any month since June 2017, when 883 people crossed.

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Part of the explanation for the decrease could lie in the number of visitor visas being issued by the United States to Nigerian nationals. Many of the people who crossed the border earlier in the spring were Nigerians who had made their way to U.S. soil using a visitor visa, before immediately heading north to Canada.

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Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen flagged the pattern to the Americans, then travelled to Nigeria in May to meet with local officials there.

“We have had a very aggressive outreach program since last year to educate potential asylum seekers in the United States and beyond,” Hussen told reporters on Friday.

“Our work has been progressing in making a difference on the ground, but we’re not stopping that outreach effort.”

The government is still facing growing concerns about housing the asylum seekers who have already crossed the border illegally, thousands of whom are staying in shelters or university dormitories in Montreal and Toronto.

For months, the Canada Border Services Agency has also been warning that more people could be coming.

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A CBSA Intelligence Brief recently obtained by Global News noted that the U.S. had increased immigration enforcement actions, expedited deportations, limited who could enter the U.S. and apply for asylum, and eliminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Central American Minors programs.

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Together with the anticipated end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of migrants in the U.S., the result could be increased movement north, said the CBSA.

An emergency meeting of the House of Commons immigration committee is scheduled for Monday, at which point the committee members (the majority of whom are Liberals) must decide whether to study the government’s current approach to the situation.

-With a file from Stewart Bell