LACOLLE, Que. — Almost 7,000 asylum seekers have been intercepted at the Quebec-U.S. border in the last six weeks, authorities said Thursday.
The RCMP’s Claude Castonguay said the force intercepted more than 3,800 people between Aug. 1 and 15, while the nearly 3,000 in July were almost quadruple the 781 from June.
“They’re unprecedented, we’ve never seen those numbers,” Castonguay told a media briefing in Lacolle, a Quebec border town at the forefront of the influx of people filing into Canada from the United States.
“Even though our officers are patrolling 24 hours a day, all year long, we’ve never seen such numbers coming in.”
Castonguay said an average of between 200 and 250 people have been crossing each day, compared with about 500 at one point.
The vast majority of asylum seekers — between 80 and 85 per cent — are Haitians.
In the United States, the Trump administration is considering ending a program that granted Haitians so-called “temporary protected status” following the massive earthquake that struck in 2010.
Groups that work with migrants say those spilling across the border are fearful of being returned to an uncertain future in Haiti as early as next January.
Many of those people are being lured to Canada with false information about what awaits, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesman Louis Dumas told the briefing in Lacolle.
He noted that about 50 per cent of Haitians who sought refugee status in Canada last year were refused.
“Coming to Canada, asking for asylum in Canada is not a guarantee for permanent residency in Canada,” Dumas said.
“If people in the States, in certain communities, would like to Canada and become permanent residents, it’s very important they do so through the regular channels.”
That said, Dumas said those asylum seekers are permitted due process and there is a robust system in place to deal with them.
He noted Canada selects about 300,000 immigrants yearly to come to Canada as permanent residents.
“We are an open and welcoming country,” Dumas said.
At a later news conference in the same area, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced a 300-room temporary shelter will be set up in Cornwall, Ont., while about 20 other immigration officers will be added in Montreal to help cope with the crush.