Surge of migrants crossing into Quebec tests Canada’s welcome

A new wave of mostly Haitian migrants have illegally crossed into Quebec, seeking to benefit from a loophole in a treaty between the two countries that allows them to make a refugee claim in Canada if they do not arrive at a legal port of entry.

MONTREAL — The crowd of asylum-seekers who gathered the other day outside this city’s Olympic Stadium, their temporary home, hailed from across the globe. They had fled violence, poverty, persecution and, some say, President Donald Trump, often with only a suitcase to their name and a wisp of hope that Canada will allow them to stay.

They are part of a new surge of mostly Haitian migrants who have illegally crossed into Quebec by the hundreds every day over the past several weeks, walking over a ditch at the end of a dead-end road in upstate New York. They are seeking to benefit from a loophole in a treaty between the two countries that allows them to make a refugee claim in Canada if they do not arrive at a legal port of entry.

“I lost everything in Haiti, but now I’m afraid the U.S. will send me back,” said Jonathan Luima, 44, a Haitian migrant who arrived in the United States last year. “Canada is my only hope.”

This recent influx of asylum-seekers poses a political and diplomatic test for the government of Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, as it seeks to balance its publicly compassionate statements toward refugees with a strict immigration system.

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The Canadian government lifted a temporary protection policy for Haiti in 2014 and resumed deportations in March. And despite the widespread impression among the would-be immigrants that Canada is a haven, there is no guarantee they will be allowed to stay.

“Canada is portrayed as very welcoming, but we’re not open to every kind of immigrants,” said Mireille Paquet, an expert on immigration policy at Concordia University in Montreal. “Being poor is not a reason to get refugee protection.”

Nonetheless, refugee advocates say the government is essentially encouraging people to come into the country — and to bypass the treaty — by setting up processing centers at popular illegal crossing points and arranging for shelter.

The Canadian military announced Wednesday that it would build a camp for 500 asylum-seekers near the Quebec-U. S. border. Last week, the authorities opened the temporary housing center in the stadium, with space for…

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