OTTAWA/TORONTO: Canada will turn back irregular migrants walking over the US-Canada border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday (Mar 20), as signs of economic damage intensified and a lockdown on non-essential travel across the world's longest undefended border was set to come into effect.
More than 500,000 applications for unemployment benefits were made so far this week. That compares with just under 27,000 applications in the same week last year, Trudeau said. The monthly number of unemployment insurance claims last year averaged 239,000.
"This is of course an unprecedented situation and it is putting a lot of pressure on our system but were on it," he told reporters outside his house, where he has been in isolation since his wife tested positive for the virus last week.
Air Canada, the country's largest carrier, said on Friday it will temporarily lay off more than 5,100 employees.
Canada has reported 925 cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and 12 deaths.
It closed its borders to most foreign nationals, agreed with the United States this week to close their shared border. A notice from the US Homeland Security Department (DHS) said restrictions will begin at 11:59pm EDT Friday and last until Apr 20.
Trudeau said the measure to return asylum seekers was a temporary one to protect the health of Canadians during the coronavirus outbreak.
"The people who crossed up until today will be in isolation … but in future those trying to cross will be turned back to U. authorities," Trudeau
Thousands have illegally crossed the Canada-US border to file refugee claims in recent years, spurred by tougher US immigration policies under President Donald Trumps administration.
The Canadian Council for Refugees said it was "shocked" at the decision to turn back migrants.
As the border deadline approached, traffic was already snarled on some crossings early on Friday.
"There's headlights as far as I can see," said Mayor Jim Willett in the tiny border village of Coutts, Alberta.
The Canada Border Service Agency attributed delays to stepped-up screening measures.
Miner New Gold Inc suspended operations at an Ontario mine after a significant number of workers making cross-border trips to the United States went into self-isolation.
Canada said it would support businesses tRead More – Source