Canadian PM Justin Trudeau needs to secure Canada's border with the US against an influx of refugees fleeing President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown, the country's Conservatives say.
"We need to know who is coming into our country, where they're coming in and why," said Ted Falk, a Conservative MP from the province of Manitoba in a video posted on Facebook on Saturday, 18 February.
Earlier this month, Falk wrote that "we need to be clear – the migrants that are crossing into Canada illegally in the dead of night are not refugees. The United States of America is a safe country and there is no such thing as a 'refugee' from the US. They are not being persecuted there."
Since becoming president last month, Donald Trump has begun cracking down on immigration and refugee claims, and people who are in the US illegally.
On 27 January Trump signed an executive order to prevent refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations entering the US, including the war-torn nations of Syria and Somalia, and has signed other orders to round up illegal immigrants. "It is a fictitious reality to continue to pretend that the US is safe for refugees," said Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada to The Guardian, citing the travel ban as driving the surge of asylum seekers.
One local charity in Winnipeg has called for help because they no longer have places to house the number of people who have arrived to claim refugee status.
Most weekends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near Emerson, Manitoba — where Falk shot his video –have arrested at least 20 people who made the 100km crossing from the US on foot. Many have children, babies, and toddlers in tow. One reporter from Canada's national broadcaster CBC found a Somali man in the cold at 4:30am who said he had been walking for 21 hours. Overnight temperatures had fallen to -17 degrees Celsius.
A recent report by Reuters found that in 2016 roughly 2,000 people entered Canada in similar ways without using a border crossing. The number of people claiming refugee status in Canada after crossing the border from the US rose 63% from 2015, the report found.
Yet people crossing the border like this are stretching Canada's resources and pose a danger to national security, according to a growing number of Canadian Conservatives. "Illegal crossings are unsafe and a burden on local communities. Our laws should be enforced," said Tony Clement, the government's opposition critic for public safety, on Twitter Sunday (19 February). He and another MP echoed Falk's concerns.
Falk said that volunteer firemen in Emerson are being called up in the middle of the night to help deal with people who are crossing the border illegally.
"Many residents in this area are experiencing safety concerns as well," Falk said as he urged Canada's Liberal government to address the issue. "We all know that Canada is generous and accepting," he said, "but we also need to ensure that the integrity of our border is protected and that we look after our national security."