OTTAWA – Canada’s Immigration Department denies Mexico’s assertion that a pact between the two countries is already curbing asylum claims in Canada, as the minister in charge faces mounting pressure to reimpose visas for Mexican citizens.
Last week Mexico’s foreign ministry said both countries are undertaking unspecified “joint measures,” which it credits for a decline in the number of claims filed in December.
Data from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada shows December saw 500 fewer asylum claims from Mexican citizens compared to the previous month.
But the department says decreases are typical at this time of year.
“Claims fluctuate monthly for a variety of reasons, such as availability of flights and costs,” IRCC said in a statement Friday.
“We remain concerned with the overall growing trend of Mexican asylum claimants, and that is why the Government of Canada is monitoring these trends and remains committed to protecting the integrity of its immigration system and the safety and security of Canadians.”
The department’s data shows the number of asylum claims from Mexico increased 2,000 per cent since the Liberal’s were elected, from 110 in 2015 to 23,995 in 2023.
That’s partially the result of the government’s decision in 2016 to lift the visa requirement, making it easier for people from Mexico to make an asylum claim in Canada.
In the last year alone, there were 46 per cent more asylum claims from Mexican nationals compared to 2022.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller wouldn’t confirm Thursday whether Canada has changed its policies, and the statement from the department says the two countries are only exploring options.
“We cannot speculate on future policy decisions. Any new development would be communicated publicly,” the department said.
The Conservatives have urged the Liberals to reinstate the visa requirement for Mexicans, arguing the change has led to fraud, abuse and strain on the asylum system.
The Biden administration has also warned that human traffickers linked to Mexican cartels may be exploiting Canada’s visa-free regime in order to get people into the U.S.
Mexico’s foreign ministry has maintained that it’s important to preserve the economic benefits of easier travel between both countries.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2024.