Canada: Military Builds Refugee Camp

Faced with a growing influx of asylum seekers from the United States, Ottawa dispatched about 100 Canadian soldiers Wednesday to build a temporary camp near the Canada-U.S. border in Quebec.

The soldiers from Joint Task Force East will set up modular tents equipped with lighting and heating on a privately owned site leased by the government in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

Now, they will be able to sleep a few hours waiting for the customs officers to do security checks.

During the first six months of the year, RCMP apprehended 3,350 asylum seekers entering Quebec at remote locations along the border, in apparent attempts to avoid a main tenet of 2004's Safe Third Country Agreement that requires asylum seekers to "request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in".

"It is summer, but the nights are cool sometimes, so we want to give these people comfort", he said.

Many Haitians who had been living in Canada for years have since raced to get permanent residency on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.

The City of Montreal said recently between 250 and 300 people were crossing the Canada-United States border to seek asylum every day, up from 50 per day in the first half of July.

Nearly 100 troops have been deployed to begin setting up heated tents in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolleto, about 40 miles south of Montreal, and directly across the border from Chaplain, New York.

The Canadian military said in a statement Wednesday that the soldiers will help the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency at the site.

Recent months have seen the province of Quebec become a major entry point. The province has opened its Olympic Stadium to house the people. Those who are undocumented see Canada as a way to legalize their status, believing their chances of doing so in the USA are slim under the Trump administration, which has taken an increasingly hard line against immigration.

Numerous recent refugee claimants crossing into Quebec are Haitians who have been living in America for years but now face deportation.

It follows an announcement by Donald Trump in May that the U.S. would end its programme for protection to Haitian citizens after the devastating 2010 natural disaster.

The measure was adopted by former President Barack Obama (2009-2017) administration after the 2010 quake, but now the Department of National Security considers Haiti as a safe country. They will accommodate 500 asylum seekers while they wait for border officials to process their cases, according to Reuters.

Canada's own program granting Haitian nationals temporary refuge here after the natural disaster has already ended, after it was extended twice by the Trudeau government.

  • Eleanor Harrison