Border services overwhelmed as Haitians continue to seek asylum in Quebec
The Canada Border Services Agency is warning Haitians walking across the border to Quebec that illegally crossing the border is not a free pass into Canada. Speaking to reporters in Lacolle Friday afternoon, Patrick Lefort, the Agency’s regional director general for Quebec noted that Canada has “rigourous rules concerning immigration” and that they will be applied.
The Agency has called in extra help from Ontario and the Prairies to support local agents trying to keep up with the growing number of asylum seekers.
Only 50 per cent of refugee claims made by Haitians in 2015 were accepted by the Canadian government.
In the seven days from August 1 to 7, more than 1, 700 people illegally crossed the American border into Canada at Lacolle.
Most of the asylum seekers are leaving the United States because they’re afraid that they will soon be expelled. They have temporary protection status granted to Haitians living in the U.S. after the 2010 earthquake but it expires next January.
Conditions at the border are extremely difficult with more than one thousand asylum seekers crowded onto a temporary housing site. Since Wednesday, 110 soldiers have been on site setting up the camp. They’ve installed 32 tents with wooden floors, heat and electricity. The camp can house 512 people.
Thursday afternoon the Red Cross took over managing the camp. They’ve installed chemical toilets and showers will be installed in the next few days. “We are in the stage of planning to add capacity so we can provide shelter or housing to a larger number of migrants,” said Lefort.
The Immigration and Refugee Board has also announced the creation of a special team to examine the requests for asylum being made in Quebec. Twenty people will make up the new team which is expected to start processing applications in September.
There are nearly 2,500 asylum seekers currently being housed in various temporary shelters in Montreal, including the Olympic Stadium and the Y Residence in Westmount.