When visa-free travel was enacted in December, Mexican visitors increased 82 per cent, Forbes magazine reported.

When visa-free travel was enacted in December, Mexican visitors increased 82 per cent, Forbes magazine reported.
Photo Credit: PC / Andrew Vaughan

March brings another increase in asylum claims from Mexico

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The month of March saw another increase in the number of Mexicans seeking asylum in Canada with 110 new claims, according to new figures released by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

There have been 266 asylum claims from Mexico just in the first three months of the year, compared to 241 claims for all of 2016.

Last December, the Liberal government lifted a requirement for Mexicans to obtain a visa before travelling to Canada imposed by the previous Conservative government in 2009, following a spike in refugee claims from Mexico.

The move caused a diplomatic row between the two countries.

The federal Liberals had promised to remove the requirement and doing so was given new impetus given the impending renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Visa could be reinstated

Still, in lifting the visa, Canada told the Mexican government that if asylum claims reached a certain level, the visa could be reinstated.

That figure has never been publicly released, but the current claim level is believed to be well below the threshold.

In 2008, the year before the visa was introduced, there were 9,000 claims lodged, making up nearly a quarter of all claims filed that year. Most refugee claims were related to Mexico’s bloody drug wars.

Claims plummeted the next year and continued to drop; in the first three months of 2016, there were 11 claims filed in January, four in February and 11 in March.

More flights between Canada and Mexico

The cost of lifting the visas has been pegged at $261.9 million over 10 years, after the expectation of increased tourism and travel dollars from Mexicans is factored in.

Since the policy was first announced, Mexican tourism to Canada has been skyrocketing, increasing 16 per cent, according to ForwardKeys, a travel trend predicting firm.

When visa-free travel was enacted in December, Mexican visitors increased 82 per cent, Forbes magazine reported.

Flights between the two countries have increased, though some immigration service providers point out those increases lead to the corresponding increase in asylum claims — it is easier to get to Canada from Mexico.

Statistics from British Columbia show that in December 2016 and January and February 2017 there were 29 refugee claimants from Mexico compared to 30 who arrived in the 12-month period from December 2015 to November 2016.

The majority of the newcomers claimed asylum at the Vancouver airport.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Categories: Immigration & Refugees, International
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