By Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) – Detention of Mexican citizens in Canada has spiked since December, when the government lifted its visa requirement for visitors from Mexico, figures obtained by Reuters show, even as Canada burnishes its image as more welcoming than the United States.
Detentions in the first five months of 2017 were more than twice the previous two years combined, according to Canada Border Services Agency statistics provided last week in response to a Reuters request.
Canada’s detention of Mexicans surged more than tenfold from 24 in November to 331 in April, the data show. The number of Mexicans filing refugee claims more than quadrupled from November to March.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to lift the visa requirement, imposed by the previous government, during the 2015 election campaign in an effort to improve bilateral relations. Visitors from Mexico can now apply online for an electronic travel permit in a process that takes minutes.
Mexican migrants have been looking to Canada as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration ramps up deportations and targets illegal immigrants who had been granted reprieves under the Obama administration. [L2N1GT12A][L1N1J6172]
Trudeau’s government has been under pressure from opposition politicians to reverse the visa lift, which a review late last year projected would cost about C$262 million.
“The lifting of the visa requirement for Mexican citizens strengthens Canada-Mexico ties and builds momentum to expand trade, investment and tourism. It will provide lasting benefits for both countries,” immigration department spokesman Rémi Larivière said in an email.
“As with all visa lifts that Canada undertakes, we continually and carefully monitor migration trends to ensure the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.”