New Brunswick

Refugee clinic expects more illegal crossings into N.B. as weather warms up

The executive director of the New Brunswick Refugee Clinic is preparing for an influx of people illegally crossing the Canadian border from Maine, especially when the weather warms up.

Moncton-based clinic's Akram Ben Salah says 4 people have crossed from Maine so far

Akram Bensalah, executive director of the New Brunswick Refugee Clinic, says help awaits anyone who crosses into New Brunswick from Maine to claim refugee status in Canada.

The executive director of the New Brunswick Refugee Clinic is preparing for an influx of people illegally crossing the Canadian border from Maine.

Akram Ben Salah said he knows of four people who have arrived in New Brunswick, claiming refugee status, since U.S. President Donald Trump introduced his travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries.

"We were really expecting this to happen — we were not surprised at all," he told Information Morning Moncton.

"We are expecting that number will increase, especially with weather conditions in summer."

Hundreds of asylum seekers have crossed into Canada, mostly into Manitoba and Quebec, and subsequently claimed refugee status.

Ben Salah said he expects the numbers will continue to increase as the weather improves.

"We all have seen that in the United States it's not that stable and many people are against the executive orders of the American president, Donald Trump, ... and people are trying to flee the United States of America to make a refugee claim here."

He said the New Brunswick Refugee Clinic in Moncton hasn't been contacted by anyone who has crossed the border illegally, but lawyers are ready to help.

"We are aware that the number will increase and thanks to many lawyers here in Moncton ... we will be able to give free legal, bilingual services to these newcomers."

Agreement a problem

Ben Salah is calling on the Canadian government to make a strong statement in support of refugee rights.

"We are asking the federal government to suspend and withdrawal from the Safe Third Country Agreement in order to let these people come to Canada and have a safe haven in our country," he said.

If their claim is approved they will be new, permanent residents in New Brunswick and they will contribute in the economy of the province.-Akram Bensalah , N.B. Refugee Clinic

Under the agreement, which was signed in 2002, asylum seekers who arrived in the United States first are not able to make a refugee claim in Canada.

"We considered it at that time that the United States of America was a safe and secure county, which is no longer the case ... it's not a secure and safe place for refugee claimants," Ben Salah said.

The Safe Third Country Agreement doesn't apply to people who cross illegally, at a place other than an official crossing.

By suspending the agreement, refugees would be able to cross into Canada legally, and the Canadian government would have better control over who is entering.

"We strongly believe that the Canada Border Services is working very hard in order to establish the identity of these refugee claimants and also to make sure that these refugee claimants are not a threat to public safety."

Only then are people claiming refugee status granted a hearing, said Ben Salah, who came to Canada as a refugee from Tunisia.

"If their claim is approved they will be new, permanent residents in New Brunswick and they will contribute in the economy of the province." 

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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