Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday there is no advantage for asylum seekers who evade border checkpoints to cross into the country from the United States.
His comments were aimed at curbing a surge in migrants entering Quebec province on foot from the United States this summer.
“Canada is an open and welcoming society because Canadians have confidence in our immigration system and have confidence that we are a country based on laws,” Trudeau told a press conference.
“You will not be at an advantage if you choose to enter Canada irregularly. You must follow the rules and there are many,” he said.
After meeting with Quebec officials, Trudeau also announced the creation of a task force to deal with the irregular migration through backwoods and farmers’ fields.
He said the recent arrivals are going through a rigorous screening process and that there is no “short-cutting.”
Earlier, the opposition Conservatives criticized the government’s handling of what it called a migrant “crisis,” accusing Trudeau of having encouraged the asylum seekers when he said in a January message: “To all those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you.”
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said the Twitter message gave “false hope to people crossing the border” and has created a massive backlog in processing asylum claims.
More than 6,000 people have skirted border checkpoints to enter Canada since the start of July.
Overwhelmed by these numbers, the government has increased patrols along the border and added immigration staff to process claims.
The military, meanwhile, has set up tent cities in Quebec and Ontario to house the asylum seekers, after an Olympic stadium and other facilities in Montreal filled up.
Most of the recent arrivals are Haitians who face expulsion from the United States after President Donald Trump said that he would not extend temporary asylum granted to 60,000 Haitians affected by a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Their special status is due to expire at the end of the year.