Makeshift camps have been set up on the New York-Quebec border to help cope with an increasing stream of asylum seekers crossing from the U.S. to Canada.
The Canadian army has erected a temporary facility to house up to 500 asylum seekers at a time while security screening is completed.
Once the screening is done, the mainly-Haitian nationals face months in limbo as their cases are processed with no guarantee of being allowed to stay in Canada.
But despite the uncertainty, more than 4,000 have opted to take the risk in 2017 so far, preferring it to facing a growing immigration crackdown being conducted by U.S. President Donald Trump.
More than 200 per day are illegally crossing the border at unrecognised points, some fuelled by misinformation saying they are guaranteed Canada immigration.
As they cross, RCMP officers warn they will be arrested if they continue, a fact they already knew.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is the latest federal government official to warn the asylum seekers faced no guarantee of being allowed to stay.
She said: “Canadians consider our country to be a very generous country and I’m proud of that.
“But we’re also a rules-based country. It’s important for (Canadians) to know that our rules are being enforced.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen have both delivered the same message in recent weeks.
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is being used as a temporary residence for asylum seekers from the U.S. following a continued surge in numbers crossing the border illegally, as well as an old hospital and a school.
Simply the perception that Trump wants to rid the U.S. of illegals and dramatically limit immigration has pushed many to look to Canada for refuge.
There have been several calls for Canada to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., which says an asylum seeker must make their claim in the first country to which they arrive. The agreement is the reason why those coming from the U.S. are having to cross the border at remote locations, with the aim of getting arrested and entering the Canadian immigration system.
However, with negotiations currently ongoing for the renegotiation of NAFTA, Canada will not want to do anything to harm its bargaining position.
Meanwhile, if Trudeau decide to do the opposite and stop asylum seekers crossing the border in the first place, the message this would send and pictures it would generate – of Canadian officers turning families away – would not be good for public relations.
It leaves Canada stuck in a kind of limbo, as the flow of asylum
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