Can Canada expect a new wave of Haitian asylum seekers?
Published Tuesday, November 21, 2017 4:58PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 21, 2017 10:42PM EST
The decision by the United States to end Temporary Protected Status for roughly 60,000 Haitians has some expecting a new wave of asylum-seekers crossing into Canada. Others aren’t so sure.
Haitian-born Lys Isma has lived in the United States since she was nine months old. The University of Florida student told CTV News Channel on Tuesday from her home in Miami that she is not planning to leave.
“I’m not going to pack up my things and go to a place that I don’t know,” she said, referring to Haiti.
Isma also doesn’t plan on coming to Canada.
“I’m going to find a way to stay here because my friends are here, my family is here, my school is here and this is my home,” she said.
“If worse comes to worst, I’ll continue to live in the United States as an undocumented immigrant,” she said.
Isma vowed to continue fighting to convince U.S. politicians to create a “legal pathway” for Haitians, who she says shouldn’t have to go back to a country still facing the housing shortage and cholera outbreak that followed 2010’s devastating earthquake.
“I hope people won’t risk their lives trying to go to Canada,” Isma added, referring to the thousands of asylum seekers who have crossed illegally over Canada’s border since the election of Donald Trump.
“I’m fearful that will happen again,” she said.
Marjorie Villefranche, who works with Haitian migrants in Montreal, said she expects “a few more families to come but not as much as in the summer.”
That may be because so many of the non-citizens who were spooked by the Trump administration earlier this year already made the difficult journey.
The numbers of asylum seekers apprehended by RCMP after illegally crossing the border grew from 315 in January to 5,530 in July before falling back down to 1,755 in October, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Among them was Agathe St. Preux, who says she left Haiti in 2005 and then lived illegally in Florida for 12 years before crossing into Quebec in June.
St. Preux was arrested and sent to a processing centre. She slept on a floor and was allowed to leave four days later.
Now, St. Preux lives on $640 per month in social assistance -- not enough to get by without using a foodbank, she says.
St. Preux is hopeful she will soon get a work permit, which are given to asylum-seekers on a case-by-case basis while they await hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board.
St. Preux warns other Haitians thinking about coming to Canada that while Quebecers have been friendly, “the process is hard, the process is long.”
“To start again is never easy,” she said.
Ottawa, meanwhile, is attempting to get the message across to Haitians living in the United States that crossing the border into Canada is not a free ticket to permanent residence. People still need to prove they have a well-founded fear of persecution or face potential torture, risk to their life or cruel and unusual treatment, in order to receive refugee status.
Emmanuel Douborg, a Haitian-Canadian Liberal MP, recently returned from the U.S. where he said he was informing Haitian-focused media of that reality.
Dubourg told The Canadian Press that the acceptance rate for Haitians who arrived over the summer now sits at 10 per cent. That appears to be a drop from figures published between January and June that showed that about 43 per cent of claims from Haitians were accepted.
With a report from CTV National’s Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin