People fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and parts of Africa are paying smugglers up to $35,000 to ensure safe passage to Canada, according to a declassified 2015 report that looked at the wider impact of the migrant crisis.
Forged documents required for a single attempt, including fake passports and visas, could cost someone $4,000 to 20,000 if they’re traveling by air, according to the Canada Border Services Agency report, obtained by the National Post.
When the report was issued, in October 2015, the European migrant crisis had finally galvanized global outrage, with stories such as the drowning death of Alan Kurdi dominating headlines. The report, which focused on migrants from Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Syria, and Afghanistan, determined that there had been little impact on “irregular” immigration to Canada at the time. Cost, distance, travel routes, the absence of documents, and visa restrictions were just some of the factors that made Canada a less attractive destination for migrants.
But now, as U.S. President Donald Trump ramps up for a lengthy legal battle to uphold bans on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, the numbers take on new significance.
Canada has already seen an influx of refugee claimants arriving from the U.S. since the country’s presidential election in November.
An agreement between the U.S. and Canada that requires asylum seekers to make their claim in their first country of arrival means that virtually anyone who tries to get into Canada through border checkpoints will be rejected — and as a result, people are taking a gamble and crossing at remote points on foot.
Over the weekend, 22 refugees walked across the U.S.-Canada border near Emerson, Manitoba, and 10 refugee claims were opened last week, according to the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, which has been helping the newcomers.
A Toronto doctor said in December that he’d seen nine cases of refugees with frostbite at his clinic, who told him they’d been smuggled across the border in trucks and dropped off at random points in the GTA in subzero temperatures to wait for the next person to pick them up.
Over the weekend, 22 refugees trudged over the U.S.-Canada border on foot and into Manitoba.
VICE News visited the Scarborough clinic in January and briefly met one of the Nigerian refugees, although she declined to be interviewed.
“Clearly, the more we hear at our clinic, the more it is apparent a number of the women fear exposure,” Paul Caulford, founder of the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare, told VICE News, adding that it was the first time the clinic had refugees tell a “consistent and horrific” narrative of being smuggled in on trucks.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, the $35,000 figure applies to passage by air, and would pay for someone’s guaranteed entry, even if it takes multiple attempts.
Reaching Canada by land is more complicated. A person would first have to travel to the U.S. by air using genuine or fraudulent documents, or they would cross in by way of the U.S./Mexico border, the report said. Being smuggled through South and Central America, on land, could cost anywhere from $7,000 to $16,000.
By sea, “migrant ventures to Canada” can cost from $30,000 to $50,000, according to the report, giving no further details.