Canada not sure if better weather will mean more border crossers

A highway traffic sign on the U.S side of the border pointing to the direction of Canada, at Emerson, Manitoba, Canada February 25, 2017. Picture taken February 25, 2017. REUTERS/Lyle Stafford

OTTAWA (Reuters) - It is not automatically guaranteed that more asylum seekers will seek to illegally cross into Canada from the United States as the weather improves, a Canadian government official said on Thursday.

Several hundred people, mainly from Africa, have defied winter conditions to walk across the border since Jan 1. They are fleeing President Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigrants, migrants and refugee agencies say.

Security experts predict more will attempt to enter Canada as the snow melts and the weather warms.

Government officials told reporters it was too early to say whether a trend was developing and noted the number of border crossers was still very small compared to the roughly 26,000 people who ask for asylum in Canada every year on average.

"There is no reason to believe that simply changes in weather patterns is going to lead to (an) increase," said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official noted that more people had tried to cross the border in January 2017 than in July 2016, when the weather was much better.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under increasing domestic political pressure to deal with the influx. He must also ensure the issue does not complicate his relations with Trump.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum)

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