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Border closure, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 halt deportations from Canada

Last Updated Mar 20, 2020 at 11:22 pm MDT

FILE: A Canadian Border Services agent stands watch at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. The Canada Border Services Agency will soon force all border security officers working with detained migrants to wear defensive gear, including batons, pepper spray and bulletproof vests, a policy that's drawing widespread concern over a perceived "criminalization" of asylum seekers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Canada Border Services Agency says deportations have been stopped, with one possible exception for criminal cases

Other aspects of the system are being put on hiatus as well, such as people being unable to obey 'departure orders'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Aspects of Canada’s immigration system have ground to halt, given borders are effectively shut down, and travel is being discouraged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada Border Services Agency says deportations have been stopped, with one possible exception.

“Clients who currently have removals scheduled should expect to hear from the CBSA in the coming days to confirm cancellation of removal and be advised of next steps,” reads a statement from the agency. “The removal of serious criminal cases may continue but this would be via exception only, following a case-by-case assessment by senior staff.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland says the blanket suspension of deportations is concerning.

“Virus or no virus–people who violate Canada’s immigration laws and present a risk to Canadian society should be removed,” he says. “The people who really should not be on Canadian soil have to be removed.”

Other aspects of the immigration system are being put on hiatus as well.

RELATED: Asylum seekers to be turned back at U.S. border, prime minister says

People on temporary visas, like international students, who are subject to departure orders won’t be able to leave either.

A departure order is an order to temporarily leave the country as a penalty imposed for a lesser infraction, such as students who are caught working more than the allowed number of hours per week.

“You have to leave Canada within 30 days, you can come back without prejudice–that’s your punishment–the inconvenience and cost,” he explains. “There are very large numbers of people who want to leave, who want to pay the penalty but can’t leave.”

He says when borders reopen and travel resumes, these cases will have to be addressed by the federal immigration minister. Under normal circumstances, failure to abide by a departure order results in a deportation order.

Kurland says the closely-watched, highly-anticipated extradition hearing of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is unlikely to continue with the drastic decrease of operations at B.C.’s Supreme Court.

With files from Lisa Steacy