Haiti In The News

Montreal Stadium becomes Shelter for Haitians Fleeing the U.S

Montreal Olympic Stadium
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters Thursday they’re working to make sure there are 600 beds in the Olympic Stadium for asylum seekers, though there were 132 people staying there as of Friday afternoon. (GRAHAM HUGHES)

A surge of asylum-seeking Haitians fleeing the United States amid increasing deportation fears is overwhelming Canadian immigration agencies and has compelled the opening of the mammoth Olympic Stadium in Montreal to temporarily house some of the refugees.

The Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada is now serving as a temporary shelter for growing numbers of Haitians who began fleeing the United States in search of asylum in Canada. The influx is due to a panic among hundreds of thousands who received the expiring U.S. temporary protected status after the 2010 earthquake.

The number of asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States into Quebec has tripled in the last two weeks, going from 50 a day to 150 and putting a strain on the province’s temporary housing resources, Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said Thursday.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, nearly 6,500 individuals applied for asylum status in Quebec, representing 35 per cent of all the individuals who applied in Canada, Weil said. The last time the province recorded similarly high numbers was in 2008.

At this rate, Canada is estimating it will receive 36,000 asylum seekers this year, 12,000 of whom will transit through Quebec. More than 70 per cent of those entering over the last few weeks are former residents of Haiti, fleeing the U.S. because they fear the temporary protected status they were granted  in that country following their homeland’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake was coming to an end. But it is uncertain whether hopes for a new home are stronger in Canada.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre extended a warm welcome on Twitter: “The city of Montreal welcomes the Haitian refugees. You can count on our full cooperation.” In this tweet he also added a phrase in Haitian Creole “Nap kin be fo“, which translates to “we’ll hold strong”.

Haiti Sentinel reports, Mayor Coderre, who leads the city with the largest Haitian population in Canada later tweeted that the influx of asylum seekers was “yet another consequence of Donald Trump’s immigration policy.” The city has seen 2,500 refugees enter during the month of July, he said in an even later tweet.

On Friday, Trudeau urged would-be migrants to respect Canada’s border with the U.S.

The prime minister reassure Canadians that the country has the resources and the capacity to deal with the sudden spike in asylum seekers crossing into Quebec. He also made it very clear that anyone who is caught trying to enter the country illegally would be required to navigate the proper immigration channels.

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