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Canada to reinstate visas for Mexican nationals after spike in asylum claims: report

OTTAWA — A Radio-Canada report says the federal government will reimpose some visa requirements on visiting Mexican nationals in response to a massive spike in asylum claims.

OTTAWA — A Radio-Canada report says the federal government will reimpose some visa requirements on visiting Mexican nationals in response to a massive spike in asylum claims.

Officials have not confirmed the report, but Immigration Minister Marc Miller is expected to hold a press conference Thursday morning about "an update on immigration measures."

The report from Radio-Canada says the changes are set to take effect that night at 11:30 p.m. ET. 

The move comes amid increasing pressure from Quebec's government, with Premier François Legault urging Ottawa to do more to mitigate the province's inflow of asylum seekers.

Legault wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the situation was reaching a "breaking point" — and expressed particular concern over Mexican nationals.

"The possibility of entering Canada from Mexico without a visa certainly explains part of the influx of asylum seekers," he said.

Legault's immigration minister suggested on Wednesday that the government's reported move proves that Quebec is being heard in Ottawa. 

A spokesman for the Bloc Québécois also cheered the news, saying the party had pressed the government on the issue for weeks. 

Immigration Department data show asylum claims from Mexico have spiked dramatically since Trudeau's Liberals were elected.

In 2015, there were only 110 such claims, but the number jumped to nearly 24,000 last year. 

That's in large part because Ottawa lifted the visa requirement for Mexican visitors in 2016. 

Former Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney, more recently a premier of Alberta, had introduced the measure in 2009.

He said in a series of social media posts Wednesday that the move allowed for faster asylum decisions for "bona fide claimants," stemmed the flow of "bogus" claims and saved taxpayers millions. 

"While I commend the government for finally reversing course, it should not have taken eight years to do so," Kenney said on X, formerly Twitter.

"I hope a vital lesson has been learned: visas are a perfectly normal (and) necessary tool for maintaining the integrity of an orderly immigration system."

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada reacted with concern Wednesday evening, saying it fears longer processing times for visitors who are major contributors to the economy.

"While we understand the government's objective to streamline the process and ensure a robust immigration system, the potential repercussions on the tourism sector, still recuperating from the effects of previous travel restrictions, cannot be overlooked," president and CEO Beth Potter said in a statement. 

The association said Mexican visitors spent more than $750 million in Canada last year, adding it wants the government to implement service standards that guarantee prompt visa processing. 

Last month, Canada’s Immigration Department denied an assertion from Mexico that a pact between the two countries was already curbing asylum claims in Canada. 

Mexico's Foreign Ministry said both countries were undertaking unspecified "joint measures," which it credited for a decline in the number of claims filed in December.

Data from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada show December saw 500 fewer asylum claims from Mexican citizens compared to the previous month.

But the department said decreases were typical at that time of year.

"Claims fluctuate monthly for a variety of reasons, such as availability of flights and costs," it said in a statement at the time. 

"We remain concerned with the overall growing trend of Mexican asylum claimants, and that is why the government of Canada is monitoring these trends and remains committed to protecting the integrity of its immigration system and the safety and security of Canadians."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2024.

The Canadian Press