Canada gives no special treatment to Mexican refugees, government says Allison Jones, THE CANADIAN PRESS Published Friday September 21st, 2007 Canadian immigration authorities are spreading the message that Canada does not give preferential treatment to illegal Mexican refugees in an effort to counteract misinformation that has sent scores of migrants sneaking across the border from the United States. As the U.S. cracks down on illegal immigrants, organizations and websites there are "providing false or misleading information on how to claim refugee status in Canada," reads a fraud warning posted on Citizenship and Immigration Canada's website. The warning notes there are no special programs or preferential treatment for Mexican nationals and that people should be wary of groups making such claims. Mike Fraser, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley, said Friday the government is taking steps to deal with the situation. "Canadian officials have met with refugee organizations in the U.S. to urge them to stop spreading misleading information," he said. "We'll continue to correct misinformation through the media in the U.S. and other avenues throughout the U.S." The alarm was sounded this week by Eddie Francis, the mayor of the border city of Windsor, Ont., which has seen an influx of 200 Mexican refugees - and counting - in little more than a week. The surging number of migrants will likely "shatter" the city's social services budgets, Francis said. Windsor's emergency shelters don't have enough space to cope with those who have crossed into the city so far, so they are being put up in hotels, he said. Housing the refugees has already used up $200,000 - or 20 per cent - of the city's annual $1-million emergency shelter budget, Francis said. Another 32 out of 55 refugees who have applied for social assistance have been approved, costing the city another $32,000. Francis said the problem has been exacerbated by websites encouraging Mexicans to head north to avoid the American crackdown. "The word is spreading like wildfire," he said. "The overarching message that's being communicated is that here in Canada you don't have to worry about the immigration authorities cracking down on illegal immigrants." Francis said he wants the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to expedite the refugee claims to ease the strain on Windsor, which he expects will only get worse. From January to June of this year, more then 3,000 Mexican refugee claims were referred to the refugee board. Of the 1,123 claims that were finalized in that period, 13 per cent were accepted. "Maybe if we have these hearings and they're dealt with, people will see that it's not as easy as they think it is," Francis said. Immigration spokeswoman Melissa Anderson said measures can be taken to deal with the influx. "If a bunch of claims are concentrated in one area, we certainly have the means to have another region process the claims," she said. Canada has seen a rise in claims from Mexico for the past few years. It has been one of the top 10 claimant countries since 1996 and has held the top spot since 2005, with almost 5,000 referred to the board last year alone. Francis said he's not trying to send the refugees out in to the cold, but stressed the city can't handle the strain. "I empathize with them," he said, "but they're being fed wrong information down in the U.S."