Nearly half of Canadians want to deport people who are illegally crossing into Canada from the United States, and a similar number disapprove of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the influx, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday.

A significant minority, four out of 10 respondents, said the border crossers could make Canada "less safe," underlining the potential political risk for Trudeau's Liberal government.

The increasing flow of hundreds of asylum-seekers of African and Middle Eastern origin from the United States in recent months has become a contentious issue in Canada.

There has been broad bipartisan support for high levels of legal immigration for decades in Canada. But Trudeau has come under pressure over the flow of the illegal migrants. He is questioned about it every time he appears in parliament, from opponents on the left, who want more asylum-seekers to be allowed in, and critics on the right, who say the migrants pose a potential security risk.

Canadians appeared to be just as concerned about illegal immigration as their American neighbors, according to the poll, which was conducted between March 8-9. Some 48 percent said they supported "increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally." (For graphics on asylum process, immigration poll see tmsnrt.rs/2nyY8CJ)

When asked specifically about the recent border crossings, the same number - 48 percent - said Canada should "send these migrants back to the U.S." Another 36 percent said Canada should "accept these migrants".

In the United States, where President Donald Trump was elected partly on his promise to boost deportations, 50 percent of adults supported "increasing the deportation of illegal immigrants," according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in the same week.

Illegal migrants interviewed by Reuters in Canada said they had been living legally in the United States and had applied for asylum there. But they fled for fear of being enmeshed in Trump's immigration crackdown.

Kellie Leitch, a prominent contender to be leader of the official opposition right-leaning Conservative Party, said the opinion poll results reinforced her belief that Canadians did not want Ottawa to accept the asylum-seekers

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