Border-crossers being misled about 'easy' asylum in Canada, advocates say
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, August 8, 2017 12:56PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 8, 2017 3:11PM EDT
Community advocates say they’re concerned about misinformation spreading among the Haitian refugees flocking from the U.S. to Montreal, where many have been falsely led to believe that finding asylum will be “easy.”
Hundreds of these refugees have already taken up temporary residence in and around the city’s Olympic Stadium, while they await processing as refugee claimants from Haiti and, more recently, Donald Trump’s United States. But members of Montreal’s existing Haitian community say the new arrivals are chasing false hope fuelled by incorrect information on social media.
“I saw a lot of people telling them that it is very easy to come here,” Marjorie Villefranche, of Maison D’Haiti, told CTV Montreal. “You just cross the border and you are safe and everything will be alright for you.”
But Villefranche and others point out that’s simply not the case.
“They are safe, this is true, but everything will not be alright because they have to go through a process.”
Immigration lawyer Richard Neil Goldman says there’s no guarantee that refugee claimants who arrive in Canada will be allowed to stay.
“Coming to Canada – putting your feet inside the border – gives you the right to be heard. To tell your story,” Goldman said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean your story will be accepted.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted last week that Canada has the capacity to process an influx of refugees. But that doesn’t mean they’ll all be allowed to remain in the country. Historically, roughly half of all refugee claimants are turned away, although that number could be different, depending on the perceived danger of sending them back to the U.S.
In the meantime, Montrealers are being urged to help the newcomers during their stay, as they send their children to school, and seek basic healthcare while they wait to be processed.
Villefranche says the border-crossers are just looking for a better life, and are not here to simply take advantage of Canada’s social programs.
“When you leave everything and you arrive here with a suitcase, you must be desperate,” she said.
“It’s not to their advantage to take advantage of the system,” added Montreal radio host Vladimir Gelin, in a French-language interview with CTV Montreal. “What they want is to work and support their families as fast as possible.”
Refugee claims in Quebec have surged in recent weeks, from 50 up to 150 a day.
The surge in Haitian refugees has been blamed on U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to end a program that granted them “temporary protected status” following the Haitain earthquake in 2010.
With files from CTV Montreal