Border guards say they noticed an increase of asylum seekers at the Quebec border over the long weekend – and it could be a sign of things to come.

The majority of the newcomers are from Nigeria, where the situation has been unstable.

Many of the people who are crossing right now recently arrived in the U.S. with visitor visas that are now expired and then are crossing illegally over the border into Canada on foot. Some are also coming in through the airport.

Jean Pierre Fortin, National President of the Customs and Immigration Union, said illegal crossings through Quebec were manageable over the winter when they were seeing an average of 50 to 60 people crossing every day.

It spiked this weekend: Canada Border Services Agency confirmed that approximately 600 refugee claimants arrived at the Lacolle border from March 29 to April 2.

He said the average is about 150 per day.

According to Fortin, border guards don't currently have the resources to deal with those kinds of numbers.

Praida, the government service that helps asylum seekers through the arrival process, said it noticed the increase over the weekend as well.

They can never plan for numbers, they can only adjust, said Francine Dupuis, who oversees the organization.

The group helps with paperwork, temporary housing and healthcare, but they have additional trained professionals.

The city is looking into additional housing options if that becomes necessary.

Dupuis said there's one thing the public can do to help.

“Open mindedness, definitely people are sometimes scared of these newcomers. They are eager to work, they are eager to integrate, the comments we hear from them is they love being here, they make a lot of efforts to adjust,” she said.

With the weather warming up and constant changes within the U.S. government – as well as the fact that Temporary Protected Status for some communities living in the U.S. is set to expire in September 2019, the border guards union is expecting a lot more people will try crossing this summer.

Meantime, Quebec has yet to receive a formal response from the federal government for the reimbursement of claimants who flocked to the province in 2017.

Quebec Immigration minister David Heurtel's press officer told The Canadian Press in an email Thursday that Quebec was still waiting for the letter from federal counterpart Ahmed Hussen. No negotiations have been initiated so far.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Ottawa continues to work with the Quebec government on costs by referring to the intergovernmental working group on irregular migration formed in August 2017 to manage the crisis.

That speech seemed to leave the door somewhat open to a refund, despite Hussen’s comments to journalists two weeks ago, where he seemed to close the door on any refund, claiming that the federal government has already done a lot.


With files from La Presse Canadienne