(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under increasing pressure on Thursday to deal with asylum seekers illegally crossing into Canada from the United States to avoid a crackdown by the administration of President Donald Trump.
Trudeau, who stresses that Canada welcomes refugees, has so far avoided political fallout with Trump. The two talked on the phone about the border and other issues on Thursday but neither government gave many details of the conversation.
Allies and opponents alike say they want a strategy to cope with the dozens of people - mainly from Burundi, Eritrea, Syria, Ghana and Sudan - walking across the border every day.
The number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada at isolated and unguarded border crossings has increased in recent weeks amid fears that Trump will start expelling illegal immigrants, and photos of smiling Canadian police greeting the migrants have gone viral.
The premier of the western province of Manitoba, where many of the refugees end up, on Thursday asked Ottawa for more resources to deal with the new arrivals, some of whom have lost fingers to frostbite in the dangerous crossing.
While Brian Pallister said his province will welcome those in need with "open arms and open hearts," his call for a national strategy to deal with the arrivals adds to opposition criticism that Trudeau has put national security at risk by embracing asylum seekers.
As of Feb. 13, some 3,800 people had made an asylum claim in 2017, up from the same period last year and on track to approach the 2008 peak of 36,867, said Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.