Haitian government thanks Montreal for helping asylum seekers
Members of Haiti's government are in Montreal to offer thanks as their country continues to recover from environmental disasters.
Two Haitian ministers arrived in Montreal Tuesday to meet with Mayor Denis Coderre.
They wanted to thank the Montreal, Quebec and Canadian governments for accepting migrants---but they're also looking for a solution to the growing number of asylum seekers coming to Canada.
The Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Rodrigue, and the Haitian Minister of Nationals living abroad, Robert Labrousse, said they wanted to help the Haitian nationals living in temporary shelters in Montreal.
"What are their needs, what can we offer them? What kind of agreement we can find with the Canadian government?"
The pair said they would help provide paperwork and documentation for those who needed it to make a valid refugee claim.
They also said they wanted to help those who have arrived in Canada.
Approximately half of the border-crossers who arrived in Canada this year are originally from Haiti, hoping Canada will accommodate their refugee requests.
Many fled the U.S. because President Donald Trump has pledged to end a program that granted Haitians special status following the 2010 earthquake.
Canada had a similar program which ended in 2016, and it's expected that half of the refugee claimants will be rejected, and deported.
Rodrigue said Haiti was ready to welcome its returning citizens.
"It's our country. If they have to go back we have to receive them, to give them everything we can do. Maybe it's going to be difficult for us in the situation where we still have to get back after the earthquake and the hurricane last year," said Rodrigue.
Coderre said the city of Montreal is now looking at creating up to three more temporary shelters for asylum seekers.
Meanwhile Quebec Immigration Minister said the number of people currently in shelters could drop if the federal government allows migrants to move.
Roughly 2,400 people who crossed the border from the United States into Quebec are currently in shelters in the Montreal area while they await background checks.
"It's not a crisis. You have to look at the numbers. We are talking about 2,500 people and in certain countries in Europe we're talking about half a million," Coderre said.
Many of those people have said they hope to move to other provinces where they have the support of extended family or friends
Kathleen Weil said directing the immigrants to other provinces as soon as they are arrested at the border could speed things up, and alleviate the pressure on the Montreal-area shelters.
Ottawa is expecting 36,000 people to apply for refugee status this year -- with one-third of the applications coming through Quebec.
Those numbers are similar to what Canada experienced in 2008, when Canada welcomed more than 5,000 refugees from Bhutan.
Only 10,000 refugee claims were made in 2013, and 6,000 in 2014, despite pledges by the Conservative government to increase refugee settlements.
Weil said Quebec will easily accommodate the influx.
"The most important is that we keep track of it, really on sort of more than a daily basis, several times a day to follow the flow and make sure people can move out of the temporary residences, and then into permanent, get their work permits, have their situation regularized while they are here," said Weil.
"Of course for us it is important that the federal government add resources at every stage of the game."
The Parti Quebecois said the province should make it easier for refugee applicants by allowing them to work while waiting for their case to be heard.
"The people who are arriving today are capable of finding a job," said Carole Poirier.
"We shouldn't be handing them cheques. We need to give them the means to find a job."
Right now applicants are now allowed to work until their request for asylum is approved.
While it normally takes 60 days for a hearing, the backlog in the Montreal area means it could be many months before applicants find out if they are approved or denied.
During that time they are eligible for payments of $600/month.