Que­bec asks for help with asy­lum seek­ers

Windsor Star - - CANADA - Pierre Saint-ar­naud

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.

PAUL CHI­AS­SON/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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.

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