Despite an apparent surge in illegal border crossings from the U.S., Canadian officials say they are monitoring the situation and maintain it has not reached a crisis level.
In the first two months of this year, some 1,700 irregular border crossings were reported, officials told the media during a media briefing in Ottawa on Thursday morning. It wasn’t immediately clear how that number compared to previous years over the same period.
The majority of the migrants carried identification and a valid U.S. visa, with some having abandoned outstanding asylum claims or having been refused south of the border, said the Canadian officials from the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration Department.
Although there's a growing concern that more refugees will cross the border in Manitoba, Quebec and British Columbia, Canadian authorities said there's no basis for that speculation.
“Everything we do in enforcement is based upon intelligence,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There's no foundation that would occur.”
To date, the majority of refugees who crossed illegally — rather than through an official port of entry — came from Somalia and Djibouti through Emerson, Man., and Lacolle, Que.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
A group of refugee claimants, from Eritrea, cross the border from New York into Canada, Thursday, March 2, 2017 in Hemmingford, Que.
An RCMP official said no charges have been laid against those who have been intercepted. After an initial security screening, the refugees were taken to border enforcement offices to lodge asylum claims.
Officials said vigorous vetting processes are in place with international and American counterparts to verify arrivals identity and travel history, as well as asylum and criminal records.
“There are other ways to determine identity without documents,” said an official with border services, referring to both bio-personal and biometrics screening tools widely used internationally.
Officials said the majority of the arrivals appear to be eligible to seek asylum in Canada. Their claims will generally be heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada within 60 days.