The surge in refugees seeking asylum in Canada by way of the United States has hit southern Ontario border crossings, according to the latest figures from border officials.
Starting in November, just as U.S. President Donald Trump stunned the world with his election win, more than 400 refugees a month started showing up at the five border crossings looking to get into Canada permanently.
In January alone, 433 refugees showed up at Ontario border crossings, compared to 175 refugees in the same month in 2015. That figure is a 147 per cent increase.
There's no question for Windsor, Ont. lawyer Eddie Kadri, the spike is directly related to Trump's immigration policies.
"You're seeing a direct correlation between the rise in refugee claims and the new administration's policies," Kadri told CBC News. "Absolutely, there's no doubt."
There were 422 refugees seeking asylum in southern Ontario in November 2016, up from the 231 during the same month in 2015. December had similar results with 447 in 2016, compared to 297 the year before.
While Canada Border Services Agency would not give specific figures for each point of entry, numbers released to CBC News come collectively from the region's largest crossings:
- Ambassador Bridge (Windsor)
- Windsor-Detroit Tunnel
- Blue Water Bridge (Sarnia)
- Peace Bridge (Buffalo)
- Queenston Bridge
- Rainbow Bridge (Niagara Falls)
Toronto a popular destination
Toronto has been a popular destination for many refugees entering Canada. Health-care workers in that city and the mayor have called for more assistance, as homeless shelters there have dealt with increasing numbers of newcomers.
In January, some 810 people seeking refugee status, including men, women and children, used a city shelter, according to statistics from Toronto's Shelter Support and Housing Administration. That's an 80 per cent increase from January 2016.
Most people seeking refugee status through the official border crossings likely understand their limitations under the U.S.-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement, according to Kadri.
Given that agreement between the two countries, anyone coming through a border crossing would be denied entry into Canada unless they fit into one of the exceptions.
"People in this situation would likely be well counseled and would know ahead of time, whether they can show up at a border," he said. "That's why you see a lot of people trying to cross land borders, where there's just land, there's no actual port of entry."