Officials in Canada are readying for a potential surge in Mexican migrants, as a promise to scrap a visa requirement comes into effect amid uncertainty over Donald Trump’s promises to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
From Thursday, Mexican visitors to Canada will no longer need visas. The move has left the government anticipating an increase in Mexican tourists and business travellers, a spokesperson for Canada’s immigration ministry said.
The visa was put in place in 2009 by the previous Conservative government to address an increase in what it described as bogus refugee claims. But the timing of the visa lift – following on the heels of Trump’s vows to expel millions of illegal immigrants – has sparked concerns among officials that Canada could again see a substantial increase in Mexican asylum seekers, government sources told the Guardian.
Between 2005 and 2008, Canadian officials said refugee claims from Mexico nearly tripled, making Mexico the number one source country for claims. Of the more than 9,400 claims filed by Mexicans in 2008, just 11% were accepted.
The visa was embraced as a means of border control by the Conservative government. “The visa requirement I am announcing will give us a greater ability to manage the flow of people into Canada,” the then immigration minister Jason Kenney said in a statement. “In addition to creating significant delays and spiralling new costs in our refugee program, the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution.”
After the visa was introduced, the number of Mexican asylum seekers plunged – dropping to 120 in 2015 – but the Canadian government came under tremendous political pressure from Mexico to end the policy.
In June, the government agreed to do so, in exchange for Mexico expanding its imports of Canadian beef. “This move will make it easier for our Mexican friends to visit Canada, while growing our local economies and strengthening our communities,” Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, said at the time.
At the time, few had considered the possibility that Trump – who had vowed to build a wall along the shared border between the US and Mexico and deport millions of undocumented workers and illegal residents – would win the US election.
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