Ottawa’s response to the refugee crisis is not acceptable and demonstrates complete ignorance of the realities on the ground, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Wednesday.
Couillard’s comments come as the province witnesses a surge of asylum seekers from the United States that is already three times as high this year as in the same period in 2017.
Quebec has asked for Ottawa for a plan on how to manage the influx of people and has requested additional funds to cover the $146 million in unprecedented expenses the province paid in 2017, when the crisis began.
In a written response to the Quebec government, federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen seemed to chastise the province for its current handling of asylum seekers.
“While last summer, Quebec was operating 13 temporary shelters to welcome asylum seekers, I have noticed that only four are currently available,” he said in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
“This risks creating delays at the border and triggering an unacceptable humanitarian situation. We need to avoid causing undue suffering to families who are seeking protection.”
Couillard said Hussen’s response was “not acceptable” and demonstrates “a complete ignorance of the realities on the ground, what Quebec went through last year and, quite certainly, what we will go through this year according to the projections.”
WATCH BELOW: 400 asylum seekers expected to enter Quebec every day this summer
In 2017, Quebec received roughly 25,000 asylum seekers in 2017, representing half of the total in Canada.
So far this year 6,074 people have entered the province from the United States — triple the number of people compared with the same period last year.
Quebec Immigration Minister David Heurtel was scheduled to hold talks on the issue with the federal government in Ottawa on Wednesday.
WATCH BELOW: Influx of asylum seekers resuming at Canadian border
Hussen added in his letter his government has already reduced wait times in giving asylum seekers work permits and that the federal government pays for their health care.
Opposition politicians in Quebec are hitting Couillard’s government hard on the file, accusing the premier of waiting until the issue became a full-blown crisis before taking decisive action.