Here's Why Hundreds of Migrants Are Now Trying to Get Arrested

February 21st 2017

Mike Rothschild

In the weeks since President Trump signed his executive order barring immigration from seven majority Muslim nations, hundreds of migrants have embarked on a dangerous journey in frigid and wind-blown winter weather in an attempt to illegally cross Canada's border.

The chaos and confusion surrounding the order, combined with increased arrests by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, has led to increased migration, according to The Globe and Mail, at unguarded border areas in an attempt to take advantage of a loophole in a treaty signed by the U.S. and Canada in 2002 that went into effect in 2004 called the Safe Third Country Agreement.

"The deal prohibits refugees who’ve been rejected in one country from seeking asylum in the other," The Globe and Mail reports. "This means that, if asylum seekers show up at official border crossings, authorities will turn them back. But the deal doesn’t cover people who cross unofficially – so-called 'irregular migration' – and then claim asylum once they’re in Canada."

Thus, migrants who successfully make the crossing at unchecked areas are subsequently presenting themselves to Canadian police for arrest. Once in custody, they are entitled by Canadian law to receive an oral hearing on their asylum request and to be housed in humane conditions. The method used to cross the border is not taken into account during these hearings, since the asylum seekers now fall under the protection of Canada's laws. 

The combination of frigid Canadian weather and the remoteness of these crossing locations has led to a number of injuries from cold among refugees ill-prepared for the low temperatures, including one incident where two asylum seekers from Ghana lost their fingers to frostbite. 

While Canadian authorities aren't releasing the total number of migrants seeking asylum, the province of Quebec alone had 452 crossings in January 2017, a 230% increase from the previous January, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Despite the scenes of Royal Canadian Mounted Police assisting migrants with their luggage and helping them negotiate the snowy terrain, the country's border patrol and refugee processing system are being strained. And with potential plans for increased ICE action, there's no sign that the crossings will cease. 

In response, immigration lawyers and human rights advocates have called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement and allow asylum seekers to present themselves at traditional and legal border crossings.

Trudeau recently responded that while migrants would continue to be welcome in Canada and will keep receiving fair hearings, the Canadian government has no plans to suspend or revisit the agreement.