Irregular border crossings – What is Canada doing?


Changes to the Safe Third Country Agreement

On March 24, 2023, Canada and the United States announced the expansion of the STCA across the entire land border, including internal waterways. The expansion takes effect as of 12:01 a.m. EDT on March 25, 2023. If you crossed the border to make an asylum (refugee) claim and don’t meet one of the Agreement’s exceptions, you’ll be returned to the U.S.

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the safety of Canadians and keeping our border secure. At the same time, asylum seekers must be treated with compassion and afforded due process under the law.

What’s happening around the world

More than 62 million are currently displaced by wars, persecution and natural disasters.

Because of its location, Canada has not seen the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers that other countries have experienced. Canadais not immune to this global trend but is prepared to deal with an influx of irregular border crossings..

Canada continually monitors international developments and their potential impact on patterns of migration to Canada by engaging with partners, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and the United States (U.S.) Government. This engagement supports the effective management of Canada’s border and ensures that our asylum system places the interests of vulnerable people at the forefront by conforming to Canadian legislation and international standards.

Although individuals who cross between ports of entry are irregularly entering Canada, we are bound to assess all claims for protection made within Canada and to provide asylum seekers with due process. This makes the asylum system fundamentally different from other areas of immigration.

See Claiming asylum: All laws are enforced and strict process is followed.

The Government of Canada’s response

Canada remains a fair and welcoming country but will not tolerate abuse of that generosity. The Government of Canada is taking additional steps to ensure the integrity of our immigration system. Irregular border crossers will have their claims heard quickly, and, if they are found not to be in need of Canada’s protection, will be removed quickly.

Other actions, such as creating the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration with our domestic partners, allow us to address the pressures these partners are experiencing. We have also expedited the processing of work permits to limit the impact on social services, housing and income support. This expedited processing ensures that asylum seekers who are waiting for a decision on a claim can support themselves independently while they are in Canada.

In addition to these actions, we created the Government of Canada’s Asylum Seeker Influx – National Strategic Response Plan (AS NSRP), which addresses any influx of irregular arrivals via the Canada-U.S. land border. Developed in co-operation with federal and provincial partners and the Canadian Red Cross, the AS NSRP is based on lessons learned from the 2017 influx of irregular border crossings.

The AS NSRP provides strategic direction to support involved departments and sustain a coordinated national response to an increased influx of asylum seekers. It is flexible to accommodate regional differences and designed to address mass arrivals and influx scenarios at single or multiple entry points or other locations. It outlines key considerations and tasks for the development of departmental specific plans and identifies actions and areas of coordination for primary and supporting departments and agencies.

The AS NSRP is intended to complement not replace existing federal plans, authorities and mandates as well as to support a comprehensive, coordinated federal approach to the emergency response to the influx of asylum seekers in Canada.

The national response is based on 3 key activities to move irregular border crossers through the system in a timely manner.

1. Interception by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Individuals who enter Canada between ports of entry are intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
  • The RCMP conducts an assessment to determine any previous involvement in illegal activity, such as possession of contraband, drug trafficking or connections to organized crime.
  • The RCMP assesses each situation and determines if the individual should remain in RCMP custody, pending further investigation; be referred to another police of jurisdiction; or be transferred to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to have their asylum claim processed.
2. Background security screening by the CBSA
  • The CBSA’s role is to determine an individual’s admissibility to Canada (that is, whether or not there are health, safety or security concerns) and the eligibility of the claim under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
  • When an individual makes a claim for refugee protection, the CBSA conducts its own preliminary risk assessment.
  • The process includes conducting an interview; taking fingerprints and photos; and performing security, criminal record and health checks.
  • The individual’s records are examined against Canadian, international and other partner databases for immigration, criminal or national security concerns.
  • No one leaves the port of entry without completing this initial security screening.
3. Eligibility screening by the CBSA or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • Anyone who makes an asylum claim must be assessed to determine if they are eligible to make the claim.
  • If the application is ineligible, the person may be removed from Canada.
  • People who are known criminal or security threats and people who have already had an asylum claim rejected in Canada are not eligible to make a claim.
  • Both the CBSA and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada make eligibility decisions.
  • Mobile response teams from various agencies can be deployed to an influx of refugees anywhere in Canada. In the past, teams have been deployed to Manitoba and Quebec.
  • The wait time for a work permit for all asylum seekers has been cut to less than a month.

Lastly, we have expanded our outreach efforts to inform people about Canada’s asylum system.

Learn more about the asylum system and how claims are processed.

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