Number of asylum seekers from Mexico down for first time since visa lift

The number of asylum seekers from Mexico dropped for the first time since the visa requirement was lifted. The Liberal government agreed to lift the requirement in December, after a deal with the Mexican government. If the numbers hit a certain undisclosed threshold the requirement will be reinstated.

The number of asylum seekers increased over the first three months of 2017, before dropping in April

The Liberal government agreed to remove visa requirements for Mexican travellers in December of last year. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The number of asylum claims from Mexico dropped last month, halting the ongoing increase in claims that had coincided with the lifting of visa requirements for that country.

Statistics from the Immigration and Refugee Board reveal 89 people filed claims last month, down from 110 in March, 85 in February and 71 in January.

The Liberal government removed a requirement for Mexicans to get a visa to enter Canada in December and had been bracing for a corresponding rise in asylum seekers as a result.

High numbers of people seeking asylum from Mexico and the fact most claims were ultimately rejected was cited by the previous Conservative government when it imposed the visa requirement in 2009.

For example, in just the two weeks before the visa took effect, there were 253 asylum claims lodged, according to information from the Immigration Department. In the three-month period after, there were only 91 claims.

But as part of its deal with the Mexican government, the Liberals said that if claim figures were to hit a certain threshold, the visa would be reinstated.

The government has never disclosed the threshold, but sources tell The Canadian Press it is around 3,000 claims. So far in 2017, there have been 355, compared to 242 in 2016.

One of the justifications the Liberals gave for removing the visa was its benefit to tourism and travel.

Last month, Statistics Canada reported that trips to Canada by residents of Mexico rose 6.7 per cent in February and that the majority of the increase in travel from Mexico over the last year had taken place since the visa lift.

Mexican tourism minister Enrique de la Madrid Cordero told The Canadian Press last week that travel to Canada from Mexico is poised to return to pre-visa levels in the coming months.

He said while there's no question there might be people who come to unjustifiably seek asylum, the benefits outweigh that cost.

"I'm very confident that Canada is much better off with elimination of the visa."