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August 06, 2007

Mexican “Refugees” Swarming Canada

Posted in: Canada

The Star

Manuel Lanveros could have come to Canada through normal immigration channels as a skilled immigrant.

Instead, the Mexican citizen simply hopped on a plane and asked for refugee asylum here because, he says, he couldn’t afford to risk his life on the two-year wait.

An architect with 15 years of experience, Lanveros represents a new wave of Mexican refugees who contradict the desperate day-labourer stereotype: educated, upper-middle-class professionals who claim corrupt authorities are failing to protect them from drug cartels, abusive spouses or gay bashers.

According to the Immigration and Refugee Board, Mexican asylum claims have skyrocketed in a decade, from fewer than 1,000 a year to 5,000. For the past two years, Mexico has been Canada’s top source country for refugee claims.

With the defeat this spring of a U.S. immigration bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants ? and the increasing hostility of many Americans ? observers worry that Mexicans hoping for a safe haven will instead file claims in Canada.

Francisco Rico-Martinez, of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) Refugee Centre, says 85 per cent of the advocacy group’s clients are now Mexicans. As many as 15 new cases arrive at his door each week.

“My concern is we’re going to be swarmed by Mexicans in the U.S. who don’t have status there and can come to the border because they don’t need a visa to come to Canada,” says Rico-Martinez, himself a refugee from El Salvador. “We’re starting to get calls from Mexicans in the States, five to six a week, hoping to file refugee (claims) in Canada. But we may not even know half of the Mexicans here who are without status, because they don’t need visas to come.”

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