CTV – Despite Canada’s efforts to slow the stream of asylum seekers across its borders, refugee claims in the country have only risen.

The phenomenon is no better illustrated than at the Montreal airport, where the number of asylum seekers attempting entry has exploded five-fold since 2019.

The last few weeks have been especially busy, data from Canada’s border authority reveals.

Between Sept. 1 and 18, border agents at the Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (YUL) processed 2,053 asylum seekers, for an average of 114 a day.

It’s a significant uptick compared to September 2022, when 1,450 asylum seekers were logged. The influx becomes even more dramatic when we look at numbers from September 2019, when just 397 asylum seekers were serviced at YUL.

Part of the issue could boil down to changes in the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S., experts say.

The nearly 20-year-old pact requires asylum seekers to apply for refugee status in the first of the two countries they land in. The agreement is designed to manage the flow of claimants in North America, grounded in the belief that both Canada and the U.S. are safe for refugees.

In March, lawmakers closed the long-standing loophole in the agreement that allowed asylum seekers to pass freely between Canada and the U.S. at unofficial border crossings, such as Roxham Road in Lacolle, Que.

The Safe Third Country Agreement now applies to the length of the nation’s borders, whether at official ports of entry or not.

This change stemmed the flow of refugee claimants in Canada — but not for long.

According to director Abdulla Daoud, The Refugee Centre in Montreal is busier than ever.

“June, we really felt it. It was pretty much the same numbers coming into our office as, you know, peak Roxham Road days. July was even more and August was even more. We’ve never been this busy,” he told CTV News.

Immigration lawyer Stéphanie Valois said the agreement could partially explain the crowds at Montreal’s airport.

“There might be a link,” said Valois, president of Quebec’s association for immigration lawyers, the AQAADI. For example, she said many claimants are still coming from Mexico, perhaps flying here directly instead of passing through the U.S.

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