Flood of asylum seekers raises questions about Canada's readiness
Published Sunday, August 6, 2017 2:33PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 6, 2017 10:36PM EDT
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday in Montreal to show their support for the growing number of asylum-seekers who have flooded over the Quebec border in recent weeks, but questions are being raised about whether Canada is ready to handle the influx.
Some of the people at Sunday’s rally outside the temporary shelter set up at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium once sought asylum in Canada themselves.
Sidahmed Tfeil, who is from Mauritania, crossed the border from the U.S. in February and is now waiting for a work permit.
“I want all refugees to have the same chance and the same welcome to repair their lives,” he said.
Activist Jaggi Singh, who helped organize the rally, said he believes “it’s important to show a message of solidarity and support to those migrants.”
The City of Montreal has said that between 250 and 300 people are now crossing the border to seek asylum each day, a 50 per cent increase over previous weeks.
Much of that increase is being driven by Haitians who were living legally in the U.S. but who now fear that U.S. President Donald Trump will end a program that gave them temporary protected status. Instead of risking the chance of being sent back to Haiti, many have headed north to Montreal.
The sudden increase in asylum seekers is raising questions about the Canadian government’s ability to handle the spike in claims.
Immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges told CTV News that the influx will “take an already very overburdened system and make it even more overburdened.”
The opposition, meanwhile, is accusing the government of failing to act.
Conservative MP Blake Richards described the situation as “chaos.”
“Like all Canadians, we want to be compassionate, but it’s really hard to be compassionate without having a plan, and right now Justin Trudeau doesn't seem to have a plan,” Richards said.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen, who recently visited the Quebec border, told CTV News that the system can handle the pressure.
“The system is responding adequately, we have the resources and manpower,” he said.
In a statement to CTV News, the Canada Border Services Agency said they have increased the number of officers and even rented out extra space to process the greater numbers of asylum seekers in Quebec.
Sources, however, say the strain on frontline officers is significant and that the government is scrambling to backfill exhausted Mounties and border agents. An email obtained by CTV News shows the RCMP are looking as far away as Alberta for reinforcements.
With a report from CTV's Mercedes Stephenson