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Asylum seekers find themselves vulnerable on many fronts

Hundreds of asylum seekers are still waiting to be processed at the Lacolle border between Canada and the U.S. Global's Phil Carpenter reports.

It’s true that it can be a challenge to take care of people who go to any country asking for help — especially if they arrive illegally, and en masse.

But what’s not often discussed, is just how vulnerable asylum seekers can be, like the hundreds of Haitians who have been crossing illegally into Canada over the last few weeks, for fear of being deported.

Marjorie Villefranche is Director General of La Maison d’Haiti, an organization that supports the Haitian community in Montreal. She has seen a spike in the number of Haitian families arriving from the U.S. in the last few weeks.

READ MORE: Montreal non-profits gearing up to help Haitian asylum seekers

“Well, there is a panic now because they see that their TPS will get to an end in January and they heard that they can come to Canada and ask for asylum.”

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The TPS is the Temporary Protected Status, an immigration policy allowing victims of the Haitian earthquake to stay in the U.S.

What many of them did not know was that Canada had a similar policy, but as Villefranche points out, “all those permits expired last year.”  Meaning, that most of them will likely get deported from Canada anyway.

One reason they didn’t understand this is there’s a blitz of misinformation.

For example, Haitians were told that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would accept people who were deported by U.S. President Donald Trump.

READ MORE: Would-be refugees fleeing Donald Trump policy may not fare better in Canada

Franz Andre, a co-ordinator with Comite d’action des Personnes sans status, a refugee support group, explains, “that [the] rumour went around and is being amplified by a lot of people in the States because they are very worried.”

“It’s fake news because it’s not the reality,” says Villefranche. “It’s not automatic that you arrive here and automatically you have your visa. This is not true!”

On top of that, they’re allegedly being victimized, by people who stand to profit from it. Villefranche says that there are people asking for money to process papers and to help them cross the border

Furthermore, says Andre, “I know for a fact that in Montreal there will be some immigration consultants who will make a lot of money from the current situation.”

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And, as Villefranche points out, so many of these people are giving up so much.

READ MORE: Anyone crossing the border illegally whose claim is rejected will be sent home, not back to U.S.

“In the United States they were working, some of their kids are born there, they leave their house, they leave their furniture they leave everything. They arrive here with one suitcase.”

The issue now for community leaders is what to do next.

Some are hoping that Canada will consider allowing them to stay, pointing out that deporting them makes no sense because, as Andre points out, “we know that Haiti is not a safe country to be going back at this point in time.”