The Canadian army is assembling heated tents capable of temporarily housing up to 500 asylum seekers following a surge in numbers crossing the US border from New York State into Quebec.
A growing number of refugees from Haiti have crossed the border, fearful of deportation by the Trump administration and to avoid a main tenet of the 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement that requires them to “request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in.”
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Common Dreams reports:
“Around 250 asylum seekers are arriving each day in Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s mainly French-speaking province of Quebec,” Reuters reported on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency told CBC-Radio Canada there are currently 700 people waiting to be processed, and although the wait time is two or three days, the asylum seekers do not have access to beds.
— Cynthia Lauf (@cynthialauf) August 9, 2017
To accommodate the new arrivals, “nearly 100 soldiers will be in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, across the border from Champlain, New York, on Wednesday to set up the tents and add to temporary facilities already organized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency,” Reuters reported. Once the camp is set up, soldiers will not remain on the site.
During the first six months of the year, RCMP apprehended 3,350 asylum seekers entering Quebec at remote locations along the border, in apparent attempts to avoid a main tenet of 2004’s Safe Third Country Agreement that requires asylum seekers to “request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in.” Montreal’s Mayor Denis Coderre tweeted last week that during July, as many as 2,500 asylum seekers fled the United States for Quebec.
Under pressure to provide shelter for so many people, CBC reported that Montreal’s “old Royal Victoria Hospital, which closed in 2015, will also be opened up to new arrivals” and capable of hosting at 320 asylum seekers.
Just last week Montreal decided to open its Olympic stadium as a temporary welcome center to house those seeking refugee status—of which about 70 percent are Haitians who worry they will be deported if they stay in the U.S., due to changes in their protected status under the Trump administration. As Common Dreams reported when the stadium was converted:
In May, then-head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some 59,000 Haitians affected by the catastrophic 2010 hurricane in Haiti—but only by six months, rather than the typical 18-month extension. The prospect of facing deportation as early as January 2018, coupled with mounting anti-immigrant hostility from Trump, has motivated many Haitians to cross the border into Canada.
“They think the Trump administration will fly them back to Haiti and they don’t want to take a chance,” said Francine Dupuis, who runs PRAIDA, a government-funded program that helps asylum claimants adjust to life in Canada.
Since the Trump administration’s announcement, many asylum seekers have tried to get refugee status in Quebec. However, as BBC reported, “no such protection exists in Canada, where the assessment is done case-by-case. Haiti sent two government officials to meet the Quebec government on Tuesday, to discuss the situation.”
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