Ottawa (AFP) - Canadian officials held crisis talks Thursday as new figures showed that most border jumpers who flooded into the country from the United States this year were granted asylum.
Only 1,572 refugee claims out of 14,467 have been heard so far, but of these 941 or 60 percent have been accepted, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board.
The majority of claims made by Syrian, Eritrean, Yemeni, Sudanese, Djiboutian and Turkish nationals who arrived via the United States were accepted.
But more than 90 percent of claims by Haitian nationals, who represented the bulk of arrivals, were rejected. (A total of 6,304 Haitian nationals made refugee claims, 298 cases have been heard, and 29 were accepted).
More than half of those filed by Pakistani and Nigerian nationals also failed.
The claims figures are from February, when authorities started collecting data on people who ventured through farmers' fields and dense forests to get to Canada, to the end of October.
Their release comes after the United States announced on Monday that some 59,000 Haitian immigrants will lose their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 18 months.
The decision opens the door for their potential repatriation to their desperately poor home country.
Many, however, chose not to wait and headed north to Canada, creating a massive backlog of cases in its refugee system as it tries to cope with the irregular influx.
With similar TPS programs for Nicaraguan, Honduran and Salvadorean immigrants also expected to end in 2018 or 2019, as many as 321,000 could be displaced and looking for a new home soon.
And Canada is bracing for a fresh wave.
The government's Ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration met Thursday to firm up a strategy for dealing with them.
Hursh Jaswal, spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said that "Canada is an open and welcoming country for people seeking asylum."
"However," he added, "our government is determined to ensure, on the one hand, that migration remains orderly and regular, and on the other, that entry into Canada is done through the appropriate channels."
"Crossing Canada's borders illegally is not a pass into the country."
Last week, two senior MPs travelled to Miami and New York to meet with members of the Haitian and Latin American diasporas to dispel misinformation circulating about Canada's asylum system.
More meetings are planned in Texas and California to try to dissuade border jumping.