Canada to set up border camp as number of asylum seekers swells
MONTREAL - Canada has deployed soldiers to erect tents near the U.S. border to temporarily house hundreds of asylum seekers crossing from New York state, officials said on Wednesday.
Around 250 asylum seekers are arriving each day in Montreal, the largest city in Canada's mainly French-speaking province of Quebec. The province has opened its Olympic Stadium to house the people.
The temporary camp will accommodate up to 500 people in heated tents as Canadian border officials process mainly Haitian claimants walking into Canada, who fear they will be deported by the U.S. government.
Nearly 100 soldiers will be in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, across the border from Champlain, New York, on Wednesday to set up the tents and add to temporary facilities already organized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency.
Daniel Le Bouthillier, a spokesman at the Department of National Defence, said the Canadian Armed Forces were aware of the difficult situation that requires significant resources.
The military would have no role in security matters, Le Bouthillier said in emailed statement, adding, "When the site is completed, the military will return to their home base."
Hundreds of Haitians have crossed into Quebec in recent days, spurred partly by false accounts of asylum seekers being able to immediately obtain their residency after entering Canada.
"There is an enormous amount of fake information circulating saying that it is easy to come to Canada," said Marjorie Villefranche, general manager of Maison d'Haiti, a Montreal community center that assists Haitian immigrants.
"They are hearing that Canada doesn't deport people."
More than 50,000 people who were affected by Haiti's 2010 earthquake have been living in the United States under "temporary protected status" for seven years.
This year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security extended their status through next January, but officials said in May that people covered under that status should begin acquiring travel documents to return to Haiti.
More than 4,300 asylum seekers crossed the U.S. border into Canada in the first six months of this year. Many told Reuters they feared the immigration crackdown in the United States. REUTERS