Nearly half of illegal border-crossers into Canada are from Haiti

There were 14,467 refugee claims from people who crossed into Canada outside legal border points in a nine-month period this year, and 44% of them were from Haiti.

Only 10% of cases finalized so far have had refugee claims accepted

Asylum seekers step out of a tent to receive lunch at the Canada-U.S. border in Lacolle, Que., on Aug. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

There were 14,467 refugee claims made by people who crossed into Canada outside legal border points in a nine-month period this year, and nearly half of them were from Haiti.

Data released by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) on Wednesday shows that 6,304 citizens of Haiti claimed refugee status after crossing illegally into Canada between February and October, about 44 per cent of the total number.

Only 298 have had their claims finalized so far, and just 29 of them, or 10 per cent, have been accepted.

Another 139 claims from Haitians were rejected, 68 were abandoned and 62 were withdrawn or terminated, according to the data.

The fact that the number of successful Haitian claims is "very low" should serve as a cautionary tale for those still contemplating crossing into Canada illegally from the U.S. to seek asylum, said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

"Coming to Canada first of all has to be done through regular channels, and secondly the asylum system is only for people who are in genuine need of protection," Hussen said.

"It's not for everyone."

Haiti was the top country of origin for irregular border-crossers in the nine-month period, followed by Nigeria, from which 1,911 people crossed into Canada.

So far, 79 Nigerians have had their protection claims accepted, 74 were turned down and another 18 either abandoned or withdrew their claim.

Other countries of origin, and the number of people who crossed the border, were:

  • Turkey, 631.
  • Syria, 539.
  • Eritrea, 456.
  • Yemen, 412.
  • U.S., 366.
  • Sudan, 307.
  • Dijibouti, 296.
  • Pakistan, 233.

Of the total 14,467 referrals to the IRB, 1,572 cases have been finalized and 941 have been accepted. It can take several months for a case to be finalized, and failed claimants can appeal the decision.

Data for February and March is considered partial, as it preceded a new tracking system for irregular border-crossers.

Waves of Haitians crossed into Canada from the United States this summer, prompted by a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to terminate temporary protected status that has allowed 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the U.S.

Most of them crossed into Canada at Lacolle, Que.

742 Haitians on deportation list

The Homeland Security Department said conditions in Haiti have improved significantly after the 2010 earthquake, so they have until July 2019 to apply for citizenship or face deportation.

Canada's own program granting Haitian nationals temporary refuge — which suspended removals after the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people — expired on Aug. 4, 2016. 

That meant the 3,200 Haitians who were in Canada without status had to apply for residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds in order to stay or they would be subject to removal.

Information provided to CBC News by the Canada Border Services Agency shows that 742 people from Haiti are currently on the deportation list.


Kathleen Harris

Senior producer, Politics

Kathleen Harris is the senior producer for CBC.ca in the CBC's Parliament Hill bureau.

With files from The Canadian Press