Haitian government officials come to Montreal to show solidarity with asylum seekers

Two Haitian Ministers meeting with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. Tuesday August 08, 2017. Global News

Haitian government officials said on Tuesday that they have come to Montreal for a fact-finding mission and to support their people.

Antonio Rodrigue, Haiti’s foreign affairs minister, and Stephanie Auguste, minister for Haitians living abroad, first stopped at Montreal’s city hall to meet Mayor Denis Coderre on Tuesday.

Rodrigue said they were there to “show them that the Haitian people and government are with them, are behind them and don’t forget about them.”

Coderre said 67 per cent of asylum seekers who have crossed the Quebec border illegally are of Haitian origin.

“It’s a humanitarian gesture and we have a role to play as a sanctuary city,” Coderre said.

READ MORE: Montreal opens another temporary shelter for asylum seekers

The mayor refused to call the situation a crisis.

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He said the number of migrants being seen in Quebec doesn’t compare to the high number of migrants in some European countries.

“You have to look at the numbers themselves. We’re talking about 2,500 people and if you look at the migration in certain countries in Europe, it’s half-a-million people,” Coderre explained.

The ministers said they were in Montreal to provide proper documentation so asylum seekers can process their papers in Canada.

READ MORE: Quebec housing asylum seekers in Olympic Stadium, dealing with 150 requests a day

“There are many that have lost their passport, their ID document. We are here to help them with that,” Rodrigue said.

Following their city hall meeting, the Haitian officials visited Maison d’Haiti, a local organization helping Haitians establish in Montreal.

One of the issues discussed is the misconception that Canada will immediately grant Haitian asylum seekers legal status.

“They have to send the right message to the population to say… ‘So, you are coming to Canada? It’s not that easy because you have to go through a process and this is not true that this is wide open here,'” said Marjorie Villefranche, Maison d’Haiti’s general director.

READ MORE: ‘Illegal entry is illegal entry’: Quebec premier responds to U.S. asylum seekers

Villefranche said the misinformation seems to have spread widely.

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Many Haitians are making the trek from as far as South America.

It was believed most Haitians who recently arrived in Quebec came from the United States because of fear of being deported after their Temporary Protection Status (TPS) expires next January.

“Now we’re realizing that there are… a lot of people of Haitian origin who are coming from Brazil, from Peru or from other countries. So this is not the TPS problem exactly,” Villefranche added.

Haitian officials will be meeting with their Canadian counterparts in the coming days.

They will discuss the future of Haitian asylum seekers, a future that is still up in the air.

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