Quebec sees surge in border crossings, 600 entered last weekend
More than 600 people illegally crossed into Canada through Quebec last weekend, a significant spike in the ongoing flow of migrants walking across the U.S.-Canada border.
About 150 people crossed each day. That’s triple the usual numbers of 50 to 60 migrants per day. Police were waiting on Canadian soil to arrest those crossing the border.
But unlike last year, when thousands of Haitian migrants were housed in a Montreal stadium, the new group is predominantly from Nigeria.
The crossings weren’t limited to the weekend. On Thursday, more than 114 migrants arrived, according to the Customs and Immigration Union.
A Haitian woman named Rosemary was among those who made the journey from New York. Like many others who’ve crossed, she said her decision was rooted in fears of the U.S. immigration policy.
“I come here because Trump wants to deport everybody to go back home,” she told CTV News.
Temporary protected status for Haitians, granted following the devastating earthquake in 2010, is set to expire in 2019. The Trump administration has decided that living conditions in Haiti have improved enough to warrant ending the protection.
Many of those migrants are expected to apply for refugee status in Canada, but not all will have their applications accepted. Immigration lawyers say about 60 per cent of asylum claims are granted.
It’s unclear what will happen to the new wave of migrants. Last year, thousands were housed in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, where rows of cots were set up. At the border, tents were placed to help process the migrants.
Canadians should be “open-minded” about the newcomers, many of who consider Canada to be “paradise,” said Francine Dupuis, a spokesperson for PRAIDA, an organization in Quebec that helps asylum seekers.
“They are eager to work. They are eager to integrate. The comments that we hear from them is that they love being here,” Dupuis said. “They make a lot of efforts to adjust.”
The surge in Nigerian asylum-seekers comes somewhat as a surprise, Dupuis said.
“Nigeria is now in a very difficult situation -- almost civil war. So we cannot plan the waves that we are receiving. We never expected to receive Nigerians this year.”
The increase in crossings could be a sign of things to come. Hundreds of thousands of people from several Central American countries are set to lose their temporary protected status within the U.S.
As the weather gets warmer, analysts say some may look north to resettle.
“We’re very early in spring now, and there’s already the numbers are tripling as we speak,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin with the Customs and Immigration Union.
“You can certainly expect that when it’s going to be warmer that this number will be again increasing significantly.”
The Immigration and Refugee Board is only able to hear about 2,000 cases each month. At the moment, wait times for a new hearing last about 20 months.
Last year, the Immigration and Refugee Board had 47,000 new asylum claims. That’s double the number of claims in 2012.
With files from CTV’s Vanessa Lee and The Canadian Press