Since lifting visa requirements for Romanian nationals last December, almost 300 people have claimed asylum in Canada, immigration official Paul McKinnon told the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration meeting on February 15, 2018.
The spike in asylum claims is an increase of almost 300% since, by McKinnon’s own admission, the total number of asylum claims before the visa was lifted was “very low”.
The plan to lift the visa restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals was announced by former Minister of Immigration John McCallum in 2016 and went into effect on December 1, 2017.
“Lifting the visa requirements for Romania and Bulgaria will mean visa free travel to Canada for citizens of all EU member states. We will all benefit from the increase in travel and trade that results,” McCallum wrote in a statement at that time.
The previous Harper government imposed visa requirements on Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic in 2009 after a spike in what it said were bogus refugee claims. The Czech visa requirement was lifted in 2013, but former Conservative Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said at that time the Romanian and Bulgarian ones would remain “because of continued concerns over human smuggling and organized criminal gangs.”
In 2012, Conservatives compiled a list of “designated countries of origin” which included most European Union member states, in order to stem the tide of welfare seekers from European countries who were taking advantage of Canada’s generous asylum claims process to live on the country’s social services for years until finally being deported.
In addition to lifting visa requirements for Bulgarians and Romanians, Trudeau’s Liberals also lifted visa requirements for Mexican nationals in order to “deepen ties between Canada and Mexico” and to “increase the flow of travelers, ideas and businesses between both countries”. That move also resulted in a huge spike of asylum applications. According to Canada Border Services Agency, more Mexican asylum seekers were detained in Canada in the first two months of 2017 than in all of 2016. In January 2017 alone, Canada experienced a 700% rise in asylum claims from Mexico compared to the number of claims made in January 2016.
The increase in asylum application from Mexico is projected to cost the Canadian taxpayers about $262 million over the next decade, which, according to internal government analysis, could be partially offset by an increase in tourism and investment and trade opportunities from Mexico.