MONTREAL, Quebec, CA (sentinel.ht) – The Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada is now serving as a temporary shelter for growing numbers of Haitians who began fleeing the United States in search of asylum in Canada. The influx is due to a panic among hundreds of thousands who received the expiring U.S. temporary protected status after the 2010 earthquake.
A little less than a year ago, on September 22, 2016, the Obama administration announced it would be lifting a moratorium and “stepping up deportations of undocumented Haitians,” regardless if they had committed a crime or not. In that same announcement, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, cited “improved conditions in Haiti” since the January 12, 2010 earthquake.
Many had held out hope that if not the moratorium on deportations, perhaps the temporary protection status designation for Haiti, which allowed many to enter the country, stay and work, would be extended before expiring in July 2017. In May 2017, the Trump administration extended the status only for an additional six months, to January 2018. But Senior DHS officials reiterated in that same announcement that conditions in Haiti were improving since the earthquake and that the program could be terminated next year.
With numbers increasing into Canada, shelters in Montreal filled up and the mayor of the city directed the Olympic Stadium to be used, reported local news network CTV. The stadium, which had been built to host the 1976 Summer Olympics, had more than a hundred green cots along with blankets and metal dividers set up inside its halls.
La ville de Montréal souhaite la bienvenue aux réfugiés haïtiens. Vous pouvez compter sur notre entière collaboration. Nap kin be fo.
— DenisCoderre (@DenisCoderre) August 2, 2017
“The city of Montreal welcomes Haitian refugees. You can count on our complete support,” tweeted Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. In this tweet he added a phrase in Haitian Creole “Nap kin be fo“, which translates to “we’ll hold strong”. Mayor Coderre, who leads the city with the largest Haitian population in Canada later tweeted that the influx of asylum seekers was “yet another consequence of Donald Trump’s immigration policy.” The city has seen 2,500 refugees enter during the month of July, he said in an even later tweet.
More than 4,000 people have been intercepted as they crossed into Canada this year, according to the government’s data. Of the 4,345 crossings, 3,350 — the vast majority — were into the province of Quebec, where Montreal is.
One Haitian woman told the CBC that she left the US because she didn’t “know what was going to happen… so we checked online and we saw that Canada was going to welcome Haitians, and that’s why we come here,” she told Canadian broadcaster, the CBC, after crossing into Quebec.
In the first half of 2017, more than 18,000 people sought asylum in Canada, according to government figures. It accounts for just half of the year, but it’s already more than 75% of the total number officials registered last year.
Experts caution that it’s harder than it sounds to meet government requirements under Canadian asylum laws and have the chance to stay. “It’s not just a matter of arriving and saying, ‘I’m afraid,'” she had told CNN.