Saskatoon

Trump's policies are anti-Muslim, make U.S. less safe, says Saskatoon lawyer

Twenty-six people made claims at Saskatchewan's land border in 2016, according to figures provided to CBC News by the Canadian Border Services Agency. That's up from two in 2015, and three the year before that.

Refugee claims jumped to 26 at Sask. border crossings in 2016, up from 2 in 2015

Saskatoon immigration lawyer Chris Veeman said Donald Trump's policies are driving asylum seekers to Canada and making the U.S. more dangerous. (Jason Warick)

The Trump administration's anti-Muslim policies are driving refugees into Canada and making America less safe.

That's the message from Saskatoon immigration lawyer Chris Veeman.

Veeman represents an Afghan refugee who recently fled to Canada from the U.S. The man is part of a surge in asylum seekers who've snuck across the border into Saskatchewan, Manitoba and other provinces.

Veeman says U.S. President Donald Trump's orders are misguided and morally wrong. Beyond that, he says, they provide terrorists with a powerful recruiting tool.

"The United States is saying, 'We do not want Muslims in the United States,'" Veeman said in an interview from his office Wednesday afternoon.

"I think that sends a really bad message to the rest of the world. And I think that's only going to feed terrorism, not fight it."

The number of people claiming refugee status at Saskatchewan's borders spiked last year.

Twenty-six people made claims at Saskatchewan's land border in 2016, according to figures provided to CBC News by Canada Border Services Agency. That's up from two in 2015, and three the year before that.

The numbers don't include those who make their claims in other parts of the province.

The refugee numbers were already on the rise before U.S. President Donald Trump drastically tightened refugee rules there. Trump's executive order freezes refugee applications and restricts arrivals to the U.S. from several mainly Muslim nations.

Numbers for 2017 aren't yet available.

Jhaldair Roy of Southeast Newcomer Services said Estevan, Sask., typically sees newcomers from Ukraine, the Philippines and India. Roy said they haven't seen anyone in their office yet fleeing the new U.S. regulations.

"I would presume most people would be headed for the bigger cities. But yeah, as of right now, we haven't had anyone come into our office, not to say that it doesn't exist," Roy said.

CBSA officials said they won't speculate on the cause of the spike in claims. Veeman said it's almost certainly due to growing anti-Muslim hysteria Trump is fuelling.

He said Canada may want to reconsider the way it looks at refugees fleeing the United States. At present, Canada is part of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., which requires asylum seekers to apply for refugee status in the first "safe" country in which they arrive.

That means Canada must send back claimants entering the country via its land border with the U.S.

"People go to extraordinary lengths, as we saw, leaving Syria and North Africa over the past few years to flee to safety in Europe. People risked their lives doing that. What's new is people doing something similar, leaving the United States to come to Canada. We really haven't seen that."

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