The Liberals Need To Staunch the Flood of Asylum Seekers

Immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are very distinct groups. A flood of asylum seekers threatens our warm acceptance of the other two.

Canada took in about 300,000 immigrants in each of 2016 and 2017.

Those who are chosen, from large numbers of applicants, show good probability of success, both economically and socially. It is a system that works well and contributes enormously to Canada’s success. Canadians are largely supportive.

Canada’s immigrants also include refugees. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

They are also carefully vetted and chosen. Nevertheless, their prospects for success are not as great because they often lack fluency in either official language, and may not have skills needed in our economy.

The number of refugees reduced from 47,000 in 2016 to 27,000 in 2017, with the difference coming almost entirely from a reduction in the number who are government supported. Private sponsors have remained stalwart. In 2016 and 2017, Canada took in more refugees per capita than any other country.

An asylum-seeker, such as those crossing the border illegally into Quebec, is someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed. Asylum-seekers of all kinds grew to over 50,000 in 2017, from an average of under 20,000 in the preceding six years. This year is likely to be even higher.

Most of them do not have family in Canada and would not qualify under any of our immigration categories. They are rapidly filling up homeless shelters and university dormitories in Ontario and Quebec. Governments were unprepared to deal with such numbers.

A fraction of them will ultimately qualify as refugees but most will not, and will eventually be deported, or remain in Canada out of sight. This costs a lot of money and diverts resources from supporting immigrants and refugees who have good prospects for success.

Much of the cost falls on the provinces. They have been asking Ottawa for financial help.

Ontario premier Rob Ford says that the increase in cost should be entirely the responsibility of the federal government. At their first meeting, the prime minister said, rather condescendingly, that the newly elected premier was not well-briefed on the refugee issue or Canada’s international obligations.

What is wrong with this picture?

  1. The flow was started by Trump’s transparent hostility to members of various ethnic groups. The upsurge is attributable in part to an ill-considered tweet by Prime Minister Trudeau in January 2017.
    It could easily double again.
  2. The vetting for refugees and other immigrants minimizes the likelihood that they will be long term drains on the economy or become security risks. The asylum seekers are not subject to such vetting when they cross the border and are therefore more likely to be a source of problems in future.
  3. The prime minister has not shown much concern for the impact the illegal arrivals are having on municipal and provincial resources that are intended for homeless and indigent Canadians.
    Trudeau said the issue is one of Canada’s international obligations, although he overstated them. If the obligations are the federal government’s, why are the provinces and municipalities being asked to shoulder the increased burden?
  4. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale is skilled at announcing measures that are not actually news. He has earnestly assured us that all Canadian laws will be enforced on illegal border crossers.
    This does not mean turning them back and has not served as much of a deterrent since the numbers have continued to grow. Yet the government does not seem to be concerned. There is no evidence of a viable plan to slow down the flow.

Canada is an enthusiastic receiver of newcomers because we choose them carefully. Even Atlantic Canada, which was slow to understand the benefits, is now on board and enthusiastically seeking more.

The growing and unmanaged flood of asylum seekers illegally crossing into our borders threatens that consensus. In the United States, Trump intentionally blurs the distinctions between immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, thereby promoting hostility toward all three.

In Germany their welcoming bias was overwhelmed by a million asylum seekers, and the negative reaction gave life to racist political parties.

We don’t want to go there.


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