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Quebec minister says reform needed after people line up for days to sponsor refugees

Quebec is planning on accepting between 4,500 and 5,500 refugees in 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec’s immigration minister has acknowledged the province’s system to sponsor refugees needs reform after hundreds of people camped out in his department’s Montreal offices over the weekend, hoping to claim one of the few available applications.

The government said it would only accept 750 privately-sponsored refugee applications for the entire province.

Most were reserved for organizations seeking to bring an asylum seeker to Quebec, while just 100 applications were reserved for groups of two to five people hoping to sponsor a refugee.

The Immigration Department held to a first-come, first-served policy, and it only accepted applications by courier, one at a time.

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As a consequence, people began lining up Friday inside the department’s Montreal offices, waiting for the bureaus to open Monday morning at 8:30 a.m.

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Aspiring sponsors were forced to pay hundreds of dollars to have a courier make the application for them once the offices opened, and news reports over the weekend indicated people were trying to bribe others to get a better place in line.

“The process to deliver applications by courier has revealed numerous issues regarding its efficiency,” Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said Monday via Twitter.

“It has to be reviewed.”

Quebec Premier François Legault said on Tuesday that the system built under the previous Liberal government needs reform and that his government is working on it.

“Clearly it doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s not human, it’s not acceptable.”

Quebec is planning on accepting between 4,500 and 5,500 refugees in 2020.

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