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'No Free Ticket': Canada Warns As Nigerian Asylum Seekers Cross From US (Photo)

(CNN)Waves of asylum seekers continue to cross into Canada from the United States, drawing concerns that the numbers will only rise as the weather gets warmer.

Over the last year, Canada has seen what has been called an "unprecedented" surge of asylum seekers, with more than 25,000 people intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as they crossed from the US since January 2017 to March 2018.

And this year, the rate appears to be growing.

The number of people intercepted in the first three months of 2018 more than doubled those in the same time period last year. And in 2017, the number of people intercepted at the border escalated in the summer.


Many of the asylum seekers take buses or taxis to a US border town, and walk over to the other side of the border, where they are intercepted by Canadian officials. Asylum seekers have pointed to their growing unease about the Trump administration's attitudes toward immigrants for leaving the US.

But in recent months, the cohort of who has been crossing into Canada has changed.

Many of those crossing now are Nigerian asylum seekers, who legally come to the US on a visa, stay briefly in the US and then cross the border into Canada, officials say.

"There is a small number that is abusing the US visa system. They don't have a desire to visit the United States. Their intention is to come to Canada and claim asylum," Canada's Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said in an interview with CNN partner CBC.

In an effort to stem those growing numbers, three Canadian officials have been stationed to work with US visa officials in Lagos, Nigeria, to prevent the abuse of US travel documents. And Hussen is scheduled to travel to Nigeria this month to meet with its officials there.

"Coming across the border in a way that seeks to circumvent our procedures is no free ticket to Canada," said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, in a statement.

"We will continue to work with the United States to deter the misuse of travel documents that has helped drive the influx."

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