Pamphlets in Plattsburgh guide asylum seekers to Canadian border
A Quebec MP is calling on the federal government to do more to deter asylum seekers from crossing the Canadian border, even as a community group in Plattsburgh, New York, is helping people enter Canada.
The group, called Plattsburgh Cares, has posted flyers throughout the town of 20,000 that maps the route that thousands of asylum seekers have used to leave the U.S. and enter Canada.
The pamphlets tell migrants that a cab to Roxham Rd. should cost no more than $80, and advises them that they will have to be able to carry all their belongings across the border in one attempt.
The group also tells migrants to ignore the RCMP when police officers tell them to cross instead at the Lacolle border crossing, and that they will be arrested as soon as they walk over the ditch into Canada.
The pamphlet explains how to apply for refugee status under the Safe Third Country Agreement there is no record of them leaving the U.S. and entering Canada.
They also list phone numbers for those seeking legal advice.
Plattsburgh Cares was not available to comment, but issued the following statement in response to the controversy.
"Plattsburgh care is a coalition working to assist vulnerable people in our community and help them achieve their goals safely and responsibly with compassion, justice and respect," a spokesperson wrote in an email. "Part of this humanitarian mission includes providing basic, non-legal information so people will not be lost or stranded and will know how to obtain the legal and other supports they need to make optimal choices for themselves and their families."
Federal MP Louis Plamondon said the government needs to do more to prevent people from entering Canada, and to do more to spread the message that most asylum seekers will have their claims rejected.
Premier Philippe Couillard, who has asked the federal government to do more to help the province provide temporary shelter for asylum seekers, pointed out many of the recent migrants come from Nigeria.
"We are working well with the federal government and we've asked them to go upstream more, to go to Africa and say look, this is not truly a refugee situation, this is an economic migration situation. That this type of leaflet is disinformation for the unfortunate people that will believe what is written in this," said Couillard.
"There is absolutely no easy path to Canadian citizenship. There should be no easy path to Canadian citizenship. They have to understand that it's going to be a tough journey."
Meanwhile Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen had his budget examined Thursday in the House of Commons, as opposition MPs said the Safe Third Country Agreement should be altered to declare the entire border between Canada and the United States to be an official port of entry.
The influx of refugee claimants has been an ongoing pressure point notably in Quebec for the last few months. The RCMP intercepted 7,612 refugee claimants between January and April of this year at non-official ports of entry and officials are bracing for an even bigger spike over the warm summer months.
Plans are now underway in Toronto to convert college residences into temporary shelters; tent shelters will be set up in Quebec for asylum seekers and the Canada Border Services Agency is diverting staff to Quebec for the summer in anticipation of a spike in irregular migrants this summer.
As for requests for financial assistance from the province of Quebec and the city of Toronto to help cover logistical costs, Hussen said those discussions are also still underway, including on finding ways to divert asylum seekers away from congested cities.
"The federal government is seized on this and we will do what we can to work with (Ontario and Quebec) as they deal with this," he said.
"We have to make sure we get it right."