Refugees make up bulk of crossings from US to Canada - UNHCR

2017-02-26 12:01
United Nations flag

United Nations flag (wikipedia)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Montreal - Most of the hundreds of people streaming over the US border into Canada in recent weeks are asylum-seekers, coming from Syria, Yemen, Turkey or Sudan, according to the United Nations' refugee point man in the country.

In an interview, Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the representative in Canada of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said it was too soon to know whether the cross-border flow of people is an uptick or signals a longer trend.

The UNHCR led a mission to the border at Lacolle, about 70km south of Montreal, and the surrounding area, where entire families have been trekking with suitcases and strollers along Roxham Road that connects to the United States.

The UN mission was coordinated with the border police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

For weeks, people have been braving bone-chilling cold to walk across the US border, trudging through snow-covered prairies in the dead of night to make a claim in Canada.

"These people are more refugees than migrants," he told AFP. For the United Nations the term "migrant" designates someone who has freely chosen to leave their country of origin - unlike refugees who are driven from their homes.

"They are not necessarily coming to Canada to have a better life but simply because they risk persecution in their country of origin."

Illegal crossings have always existed, Beuze noted, and it remains unclear "if this phenomenon is growing significantly".

However, because of the hostile US political climate towards immigrants in general, and refugees in particular, following the election of President Donald Trump, it appears many are choosing to cross into Canada to demand asylum.

"People are afraid they will find themselves in the end in a situation where they wouldn't have access to a fair system," Beuze said.

An agreement between the two countries prevents asylum seekers from lodging claims in Canada if they first landed in the United States, but it only applies to people arriving at border checkpoints, airports and train stations.

If there is no record of a family crossing the border, they can apply for refugee status, which explains why so many people are making the journey on foot, and off the official radar.


The US president has indicated he would shortly issue a new decree to replace his controversial immigration order - which is currently blocked by a federal court.

The original decree barred people from seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the United States for 90 days, as well as all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were banned indefinitely.

According to the UN refugee official, the people encountered on the US-Canada border in recent days "are middle-to-upper class, well-educated, knowing what they were doing after having well-prepared their trip."

"Most of them were in transit in the United States, coming from their country of origin with, for various reasons, a valid visa for the United States," Beuze said.

Whether from Sudan, Syria, Turkey or Yemen, most are families and "above all people who had a good reason to leave their country with strong prospects of being recognized as refugees," he said.

Among the would-be refugees are men between 18 and 35 years old who are at risk of being called up to fight in their country of origin and "don't want to be enlisted by the regular army or by an armed opposition."

Thanks to information available online, almost all had "figured out themselves" how to seek asylum and did not necessarily need the help of a smuggler, he said.

Beuze suggested that the cost of clandestinely entering Canada could climb as high as Can$5 000.

The uptick in migration comes as Canada faces calls for stricter border controls, in line with the "rhetoric to close borders that is being heard almost everywhere, in Europe and North America, and elsewhere," Beuze said.

Beuze himself takes the long view on migration.

"Movements of people have always existed and will always exist," he said, adding that often it is the only solution "when people are desperate."

Read more on:    un  |  us  |  canada

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham

Here are just ten of our favourite plus-sized models:


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Pornhub is giving users free access to premium content these holidays
5 top leg exercises for men
10 best dressed men of 2017
How to open a beer bottle without an opener
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.