Quebec asks for help with asylum seekers
MONTREAL • The Quebec government says it is facing the prospect of even more asylum seekers entering the province from the United States this year and wants the federal government to come up with a plan to deal with the influx.
The number so far this year has tripled to 6,074 from about 2,000 during the same period in 2017 and is forecast to increase significantly this summer, Immigration Minister David Heurtel said Monday. “Even the numbers we’re getting from the federal government show us that the situation is different, there’s going to be more asylum seekers, so we need a new plan,” he said. Heurtel said projections suggest there will be up to 400 crossings a day this summer, compared to 250 in 2017. He noted that the ball is in Ottawa’s court and that he will meet with federal officials Wednesday to discuss the matter. The province said in addition to frontline services, there are other costs like health care and education that are stretched thin.
“This is not about money, this is about saying that Quebec can do its part, but our resources are completely saturated and we can’t do more,” Heurtel said. Quebec is maintaining its request for additional funds to cover $146 million in unprecedented expenses from last year’s irregular border crossers, with this year’s price tag yet to come. Heurtel noted 25,000 asylum seekers entered Quebec through legal and illegal means in 2017, accounting for 50 per cent of all asylum cases in Canada. Several senior Quebec ministers joined Heurtel to announce the province has only 1,850 spots for asylum seekers in Montreal and that more than 70 per cent of the places are already occupied. When that number hits 85 per cent, Quebec will no longer place any illegal crossers in any of the four temporary shelters in the city in order to leave room for people who enter the province by regular means. Heurtel said asylum seekers this year are coming from various countries and, based on anecdotal evidence, there seems to be an organized system where people land in the United States and immediately head for a popular irregular crossing at Roxham Road along the Quebec-New York border. Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UN Refugee Agency representative in Canada, said 20,000 of the 50,000 who entered Canada last year crossed by irregular means — the vast majority of them in Quebec.
Quebec ministers, left to right, Lucie Charlebois, David Heurtel, Jean-Marc Fournier and Sebastien Proulx discuss the recent increase in asylum seekers crossing into Quebec during a news conference in Montreal on Monday.