Canadian military builds camp to house asylum seekers near United States border

Posted August 10, 2017

Almost 100 soldiers will be in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, across the border from Champlain, New York, to set up the tents and add to temporary facilities already organized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency.

The soldiers from Joint Task Force East will set up modular tents equipped with lighting and heating on a privately owned site leased by the government in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

To accommodate the rising number of people illegally crossing the border from the United States into Canada in order to seek asylum, Montreal has had to set up Olympic Stadium as a temporary shelter.

About 100 Canadian soldiers were near the American border Wednesday, setting up a camp to house some 500 of the asylum-seekers who continue to stream into Quebec from New York State.

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In the first half of 2017, more than 4,300 asylum seekers walked across the USA border into Canada.

While under Canada's Third Safe Country agreement with the USA asylum seekers who attempt to cross at legal border crossings are turned away at the border because the considered a safe country, the government says under the UN Refugee Convention it is compelled to hear the asylum claims of those who cross the border through unofficial crossings and make their refugee claims inland.

Thousands of others have fled the USA since the beginning of the year via a remote back road in Perry Mills.

On Wednesday, the Quebec government announced the opening of another facility, this one at the Royal Victoria Hospital with a capacity of between 300 and 320 places.

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More than 3,300 people crossed into Quebec between 1 January and 30 June. Even before the flow of Haitian asylum seekers Canada was on track to have the most refugee claims in nearly a decade.

Many Haitians who had been living in Canada for years have since raced to get permanent residency on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.

Many of those who have arrived are originally from Haiti and fear being sent back to that country should US President Donald Trump end a program that granted them temporary protected status following the massive 2010 natural disaster that devastated Haiti.

Canada said last week it planned to house some migrants in Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

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It was granted after the 2010 quake, but now the Department of Homeland Security considers Haiti to be a safe country.