Asylum Seekers from the US Housed in Montreal's Olympic Stadium

Authorities in Montreal are temporarily opening the gates of the Olympic Stadium to serve as a shelter hosting the asylum seekers arriving into the country from the United States in increasing numbers.

Over 4,300 immigrants have crossed the border between the United States and Canada to seek refugee status since January this year. Most of them have arrived into the province of Quebec and strained the resources of the local government and community. Many have not received asylum in the US and are hoping to receive a second chance on the northern side of the border.

The request for space was received by the stadium’s officials on the 28th of July and five days later asylum seekers started being moved into the building, which is one of the most well-known landmarks in the city. Between the 1st of January this year and the 30th of June, over 3,300 people crossed the border and arrived to Quebec.

Unprecedented number of asylum seekers crossing the border

A representative of Praida, Francine Dupuis, told the press that 1,200 other people arrived into the province in July by crossing the border, with around 90% of the coming from Haiti. Praida is a provincial programme that deals with the reception and the integration of asylum seekers. One of her main worries is that the number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada will not level off.

According to Francine, the province has witnessed waves of people who had been seeking refugee status before, with the most recent wave consisting of Syrians who crossed the border in the spring, but that the number of border crossing from July this year being unprecedented.

She said that “usually it comes and goes and it stabilises quite fast. In this case what we are fearing is it might not stabilize”.

At the moment, relevant agencies from Quebec that are in charge with the welfare of immigrants when they first arrive are rushing to find beds and other necessary resources.

Praida is in charge of hosting and the other immediate requirements of refugee claimants for about two weeks after their arrival in the province. After that, the programme continues to offer mental and physical health services for a period of a few months.

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium will be used until autumn according to the asylum seekers’ needs. Other centers have been opened across the city as well.

Meanwhile, Manitoba and British Colombia have also both witnessed an influx of hundreds of immigrants seeking asylum.

Canadian police apprehending asylum seekers crossing the border in unofficial places

The majority of people who crossed the border in unofficial places have been apprehended quickly by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police along with several other agencies of law enforcement. After being taken into custody, these people are identified, searched and screened. They can enter the country and be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada if they are eligible to make an asylum claim.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, has been pressured to increase border security actions, while dealing with influx concerns.

Certain calls to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement have been made. The agreement required refugee claimants to ask for protection in the first safe country they arrive in. It represents a policy that can provide a better management of the refugee claims and that can avoid the so-called “asylum shopping” between countries. It is also one of the reasons for which asylum seekers avoid trying to come to Canada using the official entry ports.

By now, Ottawa is standing behind the agreement that was put into application in 2004.

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