US & Canada

Canada government giving migrants 'false hope'

RCMP officers speaks with migrants as they prepare to cross the US/Canada border illegally near Hemmingford, Quebec, August 20, 2017. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Hundreds of migrants have been crossing into Quebec illegally in recent weeks

A Canadian opposition MP has accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of "giving false hope to people crossing the border".

MP Michelle Rempel said on Wednesday that a refugee-friendly message is misleading asylum seekers about how welcoming the country is to claimants.

More than 11,300 people have illegally entered Canada from the US this year.

The influx coincides with the election of US President Donald Trump, who stood on an anti-immigration platform.

Mr Trudeau, on the other hand, has spoken of Canada welcoming refugees, saying in January: "To all those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you."

But in the first two weeks of August, more than 3,600 people crossed into the country from the US. As a result, processing and sheltering the migrants has put a strain on government resources.

Ms Rempel, who is in charge immigration issues in the Conservative shadow cabinet, said Mr Trudeau's Liberal party had no real plan in place to tackle the problem.

"Our system now is in shambles," she said.

Ms Rempel pointed to a June report from the Canadian Press on a government document suggesting refugee claimants could face up to an 11-year wait for a hearing if asylum claims continue to rise.

The MP pointed Mr Trudeau's January message as feeding the myth that receiving refugee status in Canada is easy.

On Wednesday Mr Trudeau held a meeting with a task force on irregular migration in Montreal, Quebec - the province which has taken the brunt of the surge in border crossings.

The city's Olympic stadium is sheltering hundreds of migrants, while a temporary tent city for migrants in neighbouring Ontario is expected to stay open for two months and house about 500 people.

But while Mr Trudeau praised the government for "doing a very good job" increasing the speed with which claims were being processed, he echoed the tougher tone the Canadian authorities have been taking in recent weeks.

"Canada is an open and welcoming society because Canadians have confidence in our immigration system and have confidence that we are a country based on laws," Mr Trudeau told reporters.

"You will not be at an advantage if you choose to enter Canada irregularly. You must follow the rules and there are many."

The government has been warning would-be asylum seekers that people who do not have legitimate asylum claims face deportation.

Many of those crossing the border are Haitians who fear that the Trump administration in the US would remove their temporary protected status, brought in following the 2010 earthquake, from deportation. It expires in 2018.

However, Reuters news agency said Canada fears a "huge surge" because people from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras also face losing their protected status in the US next year.

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