Florida Ads Aimed To Stop Refugee Flow

Florida ads aimed to stop refugee flow

Don Lajoie,
Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2007

With refugee claimants continuing to arrive in Windsor on a near-daily basis, local officials charged with handling the influx are hoping a new Canadian government advertising campaign in Florida has a quick effect.

Teresa Piruzza, executive director or Ontario Works for the local social services department, said Thursday the number of claimants from South Florida seeking asylum in Canada has levelled off in recent days, but groups of a half-dozen or more still show up on a regular basis.

She said that seven more arrived Tuesday, bringing the total of those seeking shelter through social services since the influx began last month to 372. It is believed that dozens more Haitians and Mexican nationals, who had been living illegally in the US, may have also entered but have not sought assistance.

“We seem to be seeing some arriving every night,” said Piruzza. “We get updates each morning. Since Oct. 1, we've had 128.

“But we're not getting a large amount all at once like before. There are no big busloads.”

She said it remains to be seen whether an advertising campaign, begun in Florida by the federal government – warning those contemplating making the trip to Canada to seek refugee status that there are no special programs to accept them here – is having the desired effect.

“Unfortunately, we don't know if it's going to peter out,” said Piruzza. “They're trying to dissuade them from coming. But whether it will work or not, we'll see.”

Marina WIlson, spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the federal campaign began two weeks ago and includes spots on local English and Spanish radio in South Florida, as well as advertisements in local Spanish and large-circulation English-language newspapers.

She said the message is to tell those tempted to try Canada that there is no special refugee or immigration program for them, that the number of those accepted as refugees from Mexico hovers around 13 per cent and that they risk deportation back to the U.S. or Mexico. Those seeking more information are directed to Government of Canada websites.

Piruzza noted that the nationality of those now arriving has tipped in favour of Haitians, who stand a much higher chance of being accepted as refugees and who cannot be deported to Haiti because of Canadian government concerns over the continuing political turmoil and violence in that country.

The mass migration of refugee applicants from South Florida began over a month ago after an organization in Naples, Fla. began promoting the idea among the state's sizeable illegal immigrant population that Canada would welcome applicants as refugees, offering to fill out applications for a fee.