Canadian authorities have said an influx of mostly Haitian refugees from the United States is ‘unsustainable.’
Data recently released by the Canadian government showed that the number of asylum-seekers who illegally entered the country by land has tripled since June.
Just two months ago, fewer than a thousand people tried slipping across the border before pleading for refuge.
By the end of July, the number of unauthorized entries had tripled – over 3,100 asylum-seekers crossed into Canada at unmarked spots along the border.
Reuters reports that nearly 96% of them went to the francophone province of Quebec, leaving officials struggling to find them all temporary accommodation.
The influx of refugees has apparently provided some fodder for anti-immigration groups as well as the province’s political opposition.
There’s no sign that illegal border crossings are bound to stop as suddenly as they’d started, either – an additional 3,800 individuals were arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in the first fifteen days of August alone.
In Montreal, hundreds of asylum-seekers are being housed in the city’s former Olympic Stadium, which has been outfitted with cots, concession stands, and showers to cope with the demand.
Just across the border from the United States, in Lacolle, Quebec, an additional thousand migrants are being housed in government facilities and tent camps.
Last week, members of the Canadian military were purportedly erecting even more tents to accommodate the droves of asylum-seekers.
Despite some backlash from local politicians, Quebec’s transportation minister, Marc Garneau, said the situation was largely under control.
“It’s not a crisis,” he said. “It’s a situation that’s extraordinary. But it’s well-managed.”
A spokeswoman for the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board has had to put more officers on the ground to deal with the requests for asylum.
“The IRB had to make adjustments to be in a position to respond to the current situation that is clearly unsustainable,” said IRB spokeswoman Anna Pape.
The vast majority of asylum-seekers now trying to ply their way into Canada are Haitian nationals.
Most spent years living as legal residents in the United States. A temporary visa program, created after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in 2010, allowed some refugees to live on American soil until their country recovered and could restore some semblance of law and order.
The Trump administration recently announced that the visa program was likely to come to an end, which means many Haitians who came to America in the disaster’s aftermath would have to return home.
A treaty between the United States and Canada is intended to prevent asylum-seekers from applying for refugee status in both countries.
The agreement stipulates that any individual who crosses into the United States from Canada, or vice versa, is to be denied entry if their sole intent in traveling is to apply for asylum.
However, the treaty doesn’t entirely account for unofficial border crossings – a seeming loophole that the Immigration Ministry believes is being misinterpreted as a promise of free passage to Canada.
“Asking for asylum in Canada is not a guarantee for permanent residence in Canada, and it’s extremely important that we stress that,” said ministry spokesman Louis Dumas.
For asylum-seekers to be legally admitted to Canada, they’d have to demonstrate that staying in their home country would pose a serious enough risk to warrant fleeing.