Indians among Canada’s asylum seekers

August 12, 2018 08:01 AM
Asylum Seekers in Canada

Viney Sharma

Sukhnam Singh, an asylum seeker, has been putting up at the dormitories of Humber College in Toronto for the past few months. He fled the US after Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigrants. As students return after vacations, Singh and many like him coming from different ethnicities will have to make way for them.

Rough estimates suggest, in addition to the over 30,000 asylum claimants last year, there have been an estimated 10,000 that have crossed illegally into Canada so far this year.

The Ontario provincial government which has been tasked with the responsibility of relocating asylum seekers doesn't sound happy about the idea. For the sole reason that the cost of supporting new asylum seekers have gone through the roof and the province doesn't have enough resources. A war of words has broken between federal and provincial governments, questioning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s policy on illegal arrivals.

Even as Singh tries to adjust to new norms, and tensions brew between ruling Liberals and its arch rivals — Progressive Conservatives and New Democratic Party — signs are evident that irrespective of any political party making it to power in 2019 federal elections, skilled immigration won't be as easy as it used to be, affecting lakhs of Indians and South Asians.

Clearly 2019 can be a tricky year for the new immigrants. Stakes are high as immigrants remain main constituents. What's lingering in the minds of many Indians is that they may have to pay up for the largesse shown by the Canadian government to asylum seekers in last three years. In a nutshell, immigration may become tough. South Asian community and Indians in particular are seeking clarity from the leaders of New Democratic Party, Progressive Conservatives and incumbent party in power — Liberal Party of Canada.

A recent announcement made by the Canadian government that it will no longer accept applications for permanent residency from caregivers by November 2019 has participants of the programme in panic. Early this year, the federal government announced it targets to bring in some 310,000 new immigrants, including new caregivers and economic class workers.

Canada began experiencing an influx of “irregular” border crossers in early 2017, shortly after US President Donald Trump announced he would end a programme that offered temporary protected status to immigrants. Thousands of asylum seekers have since arrived in Canada from the US, avoiding official border checkpoints where they'd have been turned away under the Safe Third Country agreement between the two countries. Instead, they've been crossing the border along forest paths and fields, declaring their intent to seek refugee status once on the Canadian soil.

Rough estimates suggest, in addition to the over 30,000 asylum claimants last year, there have been an estimated 10,000 that have crossed illegally into Canada so far this year.

"We do not want to give it a hue of legal immigrants versus asylum seekers. What we want is clarity. When you cannot take care of your own citizens and offering full financial support to those coming from other nations illegally," says Indo-Canadian Sukhminder Singh from Toronto.

New Ontario government says the asylum problem was a federal responsibility. "Ontario and the city of Toronto especially, are facing a housing crisis for the migrants and Ottawa (capital city) must pay," newly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford says.

So far 2017 saw the highest asylum claims in the last two decades. A total of 49,775 claims were made. In comparison, there were 37,845 claimants in 2000 and 36,920 in 2008. The highest volume before last year came in 2001 with 44,695 asylum claimants.

The opposition parties are now calling on the government to “undertake a study to review the adequacy of its response to the impact of increased asylum seekers crossing into Canada from the US”. They want more meetings of the Immigration Committee to hear about the government’s plans to deal with the situation.



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