Hope and the Threat from President Trump’s Policies Have Driven a Wave of Haitian Asylum Seekers to Quebec In Recent Weeks.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed all to Canada in response to US President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration executive orders, many people in the US and around the globe took Trudeau for his word. Many seeking a better life, living in fear of deportation from the US, have flocked to Canada in droves since Trudeau opened the country’s doors.
Unfortunately, what these people have not realized is that while they may submit a refugee claim, claim approval is not a guarantee. Even claims in the country are subject to rigorous screening. Refugee status is only granted in specific circumstances. Status is based on a consideration of the person’s risk factors, and whether they are to be a Convention refugee who cannot return to their home country. Return may not be possible because of a well-founded fear of persecution, or if they are persons in need of protection.
Influx in Haitian Asylum Seekers
In recent weeks, Quebec has seen a drastic increase in refugee claims. The number of claims rose from only 50 claims per day to approximately 150 claims per day. Most of these asylum seekers are Haitian. This influx is due to the threat that President Trump may not to extend the temporary protected status program for Haitians. Created in response to Haiti's devasting 2010 earthquake, the program's future remains uncertain.
Currently, hundreds of asylum seekers are living in and around the Olympic Stadium in Montréal. Montréal has been a hub for asylum seekers since it became a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants earlier this year. The Canadian government has also employed its military personnel to build temporary housing at the Quebec-US border to provide shelter for the growing number of asylum seekers crossing over.
Rumours and Misinformation
There may have also been some misinformation about the ease of gaining asylum status in Canada online. Members of the Montréal Haitian community warned of the spread of information on social media that may be giving asylum seekers false hope. According to these rumours, gaining refugee status in Canada is an “easy” process. Asylum seekers simply need to get across the border, and they will be safe in Canada. But what they aren’t being told is that while, yes, they are safe in Canada for a time while their asylum claims are being processed, their claim may not be accepted and they may have to return to Haiti.
Haitian asylum seekers have been entering Canada irregularly to avoid being denied entry due to the Safe Third Country Agreement. The Safe Third Country Agreement holds that refugee claims must be made in the first safe country in which the claimant’s arrive (there are some exceptions, such as if you have family in Canada). This means you cannot currently make a refugee claim in Canada if you enter Canada at a land border from the United States. The question of whether or not the US is a safe country is the main argument behind advocates’ calls to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the US.