- Number of asylum seekers entering Canada from US has risen sharply this year
- Delays at border means migrants have been forced to wait in area with no beds
The Canadian military has been deployed to build a 500-person camp at a remote location at the border as authorities grapple with a growing number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada by foot from the United States.
On Wednesday, nearly 100 soldiers were sent to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle – just across the border from Champlain, New York – to erect heated tents to temporarily house as many as 500 people, the armed forces said in a statement. The site has become a popular crossing spot in recent months, with hundreds of people a day making the easy trip over a shallow ditch that connects both countries.
Since the start of the year, the numbers of asylum seekers entering Canada from the US has risen sharply. More than 4,000 of them – many of them driven by fears of Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants – have entered Canada at remote, unguarded locations along the border.
By doing so, they aim to skirt a 2004 agreement between Canada and the US that forces most migrants to apply for asylum in the first country in which they arrive.
Recent months have seen the province of Quebec become a major entry point. As many as 250 migrants a day have arrived in Montreal in recent weeks, adding to the more than 3,300 asylum seekers who crossed into the province in the first six months of the year.
Authorities have responded by opening additional welcome centres. After hundreds of beds were set up last week in the city’s Olympic Stadium, officials opened similar sites in a former convent, as well as a decommissioned hospital. Asylum seekers will likely only spend a few weeks in the centres before being moved into longer-term housing while they wait for their claims to be heard.
At Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have set up temporary facilities where migrants are screened and processed.
About 700 asylum seekers are at the site, and wait times for processing have swelled to two or three days, the Canadian border agency told the CBC. The delays mean migrants have been forced to wait in an area with no beds, just benches and chairs.
The camp – consisting of modular tent shelters with floors, lighting and heating – aims to rectify this. Military personnel…