A legal loophole has would-be refugees in the U.S. coming into Canada through the Quebec border, CBC News has learned.
"Sometimes we get half a dozen of them on a shift, and then you're a week without getting any, said RCMP Sgt. Christian Dubois. "And then, all of a sudden, 'boom.'"
Dubois said since the new RCMP border patrol started, more than half of their time is being spent on would-be refugees.
RCMP Insp. Marc Lacasse said there have been 64 arrests in just two months along the 140 kilometres of the Quebec-Vermont border, representing a 400 per cent increase over the same time period last year.
With immigration laws tightening in the U.S., increasing numbers of people have simply given up on ever getting permanent residency. Spot checks by American authorities have them worried about being caught and deported.
Lacasse believes that people are taking advantage of a loophole created by a document signed between Canada and the U.S. called the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.
Under the agreement, if a person that is already in the U.S. tries to move further north into Canada to claim refugee status, they will be turned back because both countries are considered safe. But the agreement only applies at organized crossings. Those determined to enter are now simply walking across through the bush.
"Our belief is there are organizations that are trying to use those areas to basically direct people to come over to Canada and gain refugee status," said Lacasse. "Contrary to a point of entry [where] they would be turned back."
Immigration lawyer David Cohen said that once a refugee gets away from an organized border crossing and enters Canada through the brush, Canada is obligated to process them.
"There's no surprise and in fact it was absolutely predictable … and was predicted," he said
"People avoid the Canadian port of entry and somehow make their way into Canada and make the refugee claim," Cohen said.
It's difficult to stop would-be refugees because there are more unprotected roads leading to the Quebec border than that of any other province.
Border services has also confirmed it will close or reduce hours for at least five entry points in Quebec alone, potentially increasing the number of unguarded roads.