Refugees crossing into Canada from US swell

Refugees speak to Canadian officials at a processing centre after crossing the border from the United States Photo: AFP

The Canadian military is building a camp to house the growing number of refugees crossing the US border, officials have said.

The camp would house up to 500 asylum seekers in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, near the border with New York.

The construction begins about a week after Montreal turned its Olympic Stadium into a shelter for refugees arriving from the US.

More than 3300 people crossed into Quebec between 1 January and 30 June.

The military-built camp would house hundreds of asylum seekers in heated tents fitted with flooring and electricity while they waited for their refugee applications to be processed, a statement from the military said.

Canada Border Services Agency spokesman Patrick Lefort told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation there was currently a backlog of asylum seekers at Roxham Road, a popular crossing point near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.

It would take about two or three days for Canada Border Services to process the 700 asylum applications. In the meantime, there is no place for them to stay.

Francine Dupuis, of Praida, a provincial programme for the reception and integration of asylum seekers, told the BBC that another 1200 people crossed into the province in July, about 90 percent of them from Haiti.

Refugees wait a processing centre after crossing the border into Quebec from the US

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More than 3300 people crossed into Quebec from the United States in the first half of this year Photo: AFP

In May, Donald Trump announced that the US would end the programme that extended temporary protection to Haitian citizens after the devastating 2010 earthquake. That protection is due to expire in January 2018.

Since then, many asylum seekers have tried to get refugee status in Quebec, a French-speaking province.

No such protection exists in Canada, where the assessment is done case-by-case.

Haiti sent two government officials to meet the Quebec government on Tuesday, to discuss the situation.

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is being used to as a shelter in August, and the city also plans to use the decommissioned Royal Victoria Hospital into a 320-bed facility.

School-aged refugees will be enrolled at Montreal’s French-language school board beginning next month.

– BBC