Aug 5, 2017 – 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.
Up to 450 temporary beds were set up at the stadium to house those looking to escape a Donald Trump immigration crackdown.
In the last two weeks, the daily average has tripled from 50 to 150 people making the trek from New York into Quebec. The increase is putting extreme pressure on the province’s resources, hence the need to turn the iconic stadium into a holding centre.
The increase is believed to be led by Haitians, who fear deportation under Trump. The president has threatened to withdraw the special status given to Haitians in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
Unofficial figures for July 2017 suggest more than 1,150 asylum seekers crossed the Quebec border, compared to 150 in July 2016.
Between January 1 and June 30, 2017, some 6,500 asylum seekers have arrived in Quebec, 35 per cent of the Canada-wide total.
Despite the pressure on Quebec, Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil says the province can handle the situation.
She pointed to 2008, when 12,000 asylum seekers crossed into Quebec, with 2017 on course to beat that number.
« We have a public and community network that is strong, competent and experienced that can handle this kind of situation, can take responsibility for these people in a dignified and safe way and provide them with the services that they need during the processing of their claims, » Weil said.
The Quebec minister also said she had spoken to federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, with officials at both levels working together to cope with the situation.
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.
But under the Safe Third Country Agreement, an asylum seeker must claim refugee status in the country to which they arrive.
It means asylum seekers cannot cross from the U.S. to Canada at recognized border points. Instead, they are forced to cross the border at unprotected outposts, allowing them to make a claim for asylum after being arrested.
There have been several calls for Canada to suspend the agreement, but both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen say there are no plans to do this.
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