Massive changes on the Canadian border under emergency pandemic restrictions have slowed cross-border traffic into unmatched droplets, including those claiming abuse abroad.
Six asylum seekers were returned to Canada’s border with the United States under the recent COVID-19 restriction, four of which were irregular border crossers, from March 21 to April 2, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
March 21 is a day of emergency orders that is very unusual under the Quarantine Act prohibiting entry into Canada by people who claim refugee protection.
Only one asylum seeker is permitted to proceed to Canada with the exception of closed border rules, which can mean that person is an American citizen.
Of the four irregular crossers, sometimes referred to as illegal border crossers, two were stopped after crossing into Quebec and two to British Columbia.
The remaining two asylum seekers arrived from the United States at the border entry point in southern Ontario and also returned, CBSA said. The agency refused to say which countries these people sought protection from.
“Failure to comply with a direct return order can result in foreign nationals becoming unacceptable in Canada,” said Jacqueline Callin, a CBSA spokesman. “This regulation will be applied to all foreign nationals who wish to enter Canada if their entry is prohibited – regardless of whether they enter irregularly or at the designated port of entry.
“Asylum complainants will be asked to provide basic identifying information and be asked to return to submit asylum claims after the temporary ban is lifted.”
That contrasts sharply with what is a typical border activity.
CBSA will not provide the number of asylum claims for the same period last year. However, as a point of contrast, in all March 2019, the RCMP made 1,001 asylum seekers interception that did not cross at official border checkpoints: 967 in Quebec, 22 in BC, and 13 in Manitoba.
In the same month there were a total of 1,870 asylum claims made at formal border crossing points, which was one of the lowest monthly totals for the year.
There are far fewer new cases of refugee complainants at the Immigration and Refugee Agency (IRB).
The IRB Refugee Protection Division received 304 national refugee protection claims starting March 21 and April 5, according to IRB data. While specific comparisons for the same period last year were not available, in 2019, the IRB had an overall average of 2,245 references in a two-week period.
This does not mean that all 304 claimants crossed the border since COVID-19 travel restrictions. There may be a delay between the arrival of the complainant in Canada and the referral to the IRB, said Anna Pape, an IRB spokesman.
The sharp decline in asylum seekers in Canada reflects an unmatched decline in all border traffic under COVID-19.
From March 23 to March 29, there were almost 82 percent fewer land crossings to Canada compared to the same period last year, and a decrease of almost 85 percent in people coming by air.
On March 16, with a sudden face, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said foreign travelers were prevented from entering Canada, except for US citizens, to reduce the spread of the new corona virus.
However, the following day, Minister of Public Security Bill Blair said irregular border crossers would undergo a medical examination but were still permitted to continue their immigration assessment assessment in Canada.
The following day, the border was clamped more tightly with the Canada-US border closed for all non-essential travel, regardless of nationality.
On March 20, in further changes, the government announced that asylum seekers would also be temporarily rejected at the border.
All travelers arriving in Canada – including Canadian citizens – are experiencing increased intervention and screening given COVID-19.
Temperature, however, is not taken by CBSA at the border or airport.
All travelers – regardless of country of origin or entry mode – are assessed on arrival to Canada
During a similar but less severe pandemic, an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, temperature testing was found to be an ineffective control, CBSA said. During SARS, 2.3 million travelers experienced temperatures at Canadian airports.
“Despite this intensive screening effort, no cases of SARS were detected using this method,” Callin said.
Here’s what happened:
On March 31, anyone who arrives in Canada must fill out a contact tracing form to help the Canadian Public Health Agency (PHAC) monitor and enforce 14 days of self-isolation, except for regular workers, cross-border without the COVID mark -19.
Travelers must tell the PHAC where they will be isolating themselves and that information can be shared with the police or others to monitor compliance, according to CBSA.
Failure to comply with isolation orders can be punished with a maximum fine of $ 1 million and imprisonment for three years.
Airlines should prevent travelers who have symptoms from boarding flights to Canada.
“All travelers – no matter their country of origin or mode of entry – are assessed upon arrival to Canada,” Callin said. “CBSA officers remain vigilant and are highly trained to identify travelers who wish to enter Canada which can pose health and safety risks.”
Usually, a CBSA officer, as the first point of contact for a traveler who arrives, will conduct an initial screening. CBSA looks for COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing, or difficulty breathing.
At all airports, a traveling team of officers monitors the arrival and baggage claim area for anyone who shows signs of illness.
Tourists who show no symptoms are allowed to use public transportation to go home but must isolate themselves for 14 days as soon as they arrive there, CBSA said.
Travelers who show symptoms of COVID-19 are given a mask and are referred to the PHAC staff.
Canadian citizens have the right to return to Canada, but they still need to undergo medical examinations and isolation.
PHAC does not respond to questions about how aggressively the isolation is monitored or enforced.
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