Tories Call on Feds to Restore Visa Requirement for Mexican Nationals Over Rising Asylum Claims

Tories Call on Feds to Restore Visa Requirement for Mexican Nationals Over Rising Asylum Claims
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 11, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Spencer Colby)
William Crooks

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is urging the Canadian government to reintroduce visa requirements for Mexican nationals in a bid to stem the growing number of asylum claims from the country.

Mr. Poilievre said reintroducing the visa requirement would “prevent further abuse” of Canada’s asylum system.

“Canada’s immigration system is broken,” Mr. Poilievre said in a Jan. 24 press release, adding, “even [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s own immigration minister has admitted that the system they created ‘has gotten out of control.’”

Immigration Minister Marc Miller has emphasized the necessity for new measures to manage the rising influx of asylum seekers from Mexico, some of whom he referred to as “bad actors.”

“We certainly need to turn the screws a bit, whether it’s a quarter turn or full turn is something that’s still being determined,” Mr. Miller said at a Montreal press conference Jan. 22.

The minister’s statement coincides with ongoing diplomatic discussions between Ottawa and Mexico. These talks aim to address the surge in asylum applications from Mexican nationals, a situation that has evolved since Canada abolished visa requirements for Mexican travellers in 2016. This policy change was part of a broader trade agreement with Mexico.

Mr. Poilievre pointed to the 2016 decision by the Liberal government to remove the visa requirements for Mexico, initially established by the preceding Conservative administration. According to Mr. Poilievre, this policy change has resulted in increased fraudulent activities and abuses within the asylum system, abuses that he says have strained Canada’s resources and led to prolonged processing times for legitimate asylum cases before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Statistics from the Immigration and Refugee Board indicate a dramatic increase in asylum claims from Mexican visitors. These claims surged from 250 in 2016 to 17,490 in 2023, with only about 11 percent of the 2023 claims resulting in granted asylum. Mexico ranks first among countries for asylum seekers in Canada, outnumbering the second-place, Haiti, by nearly 9,000 applicants.

Mr. Poilievre also raised concerns about the potential for organized criminal networks to use the asylum system to engage in human trafficking.

In March of 2023, Toronto’s York Regional Police announced the “rescue” of 64 individuals from Mexico, who were victims of an “international labour trafficking ring.” This successful operation, known as “Project Norte,” was carried out in collaboration with the Canada Border Services Agency and the Provincial Human Trafficking Intelligence-Led Joint Forces Strategy.

Mr. Poilievre said a visa requirement would mitigate such abuses of the asylum system and help allocate resources more effectively toward supporting legitimate asylum seekers.