Will the Haitian asylum-seekers in Montreal get to stay?

The hopes of those crossing the border are high, but recent history shows they’re far from assured of a successful outcome


This has already been a big year for asylum-seekers crossing into Canada from the U.S. But the most recent surge into Quebec, many of whom are Haitians who formerly lived in the U.S., is on an even larger scale and is bound to put greater pressure on the already-strained federal system sorting through their claims.

The trend is driven to a great extent by growing fear among the community that President Donald Trump’s administration will begin deporting them next year—ending a policy, put in place by the former Barack Obama administration after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which has allowed more than 50,000 of them to stay in the U.S. Those crossing the border into Quebec are being temporarily housed in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

Here are four key questions about the emerging challenges, and at least partial answers.

How big is the current Quebec influx compared to normal flows of asylum-seekers?

Quebec government officials say the number of migrants crossing the border near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., every day has climbed to at least 150 over the past two weeks, up from perhaps a third that many daily crossings earlier this year. Most are Haitian. As a point of comparison, in all of 2016, the federal Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) completed decision-making on a total of 412 refugee claims from Haitians. Another way to grasp this week’s Quebec numbers: at a rate of 150 a day, as many new migrants will walk into Quebec in five days as have arrived so far all year in Manitoba, another Canadian hot-spot for illegal border-crossing. (As of this week, about 750 asylum seekers had arrived in Manitoba from the U.S. in 2017, according to Rita Chahal, ‎executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, a key service-provider to refugees.)

What are the chances of those Haitian asylum-seekers having their refugee claims accepted?

Of the 412 claims from Haitians decided on by the IRB in 2016, only 207 were accepted, while 197 were rejected, and eight were dropped one way or another. (Decisions for another 351 claims from Haitians were pending at the end of 2016.) And last year’s roughly 50 per cent acceptance rate for Haitians seeking to stay in Canada as refugees actually looks high, compared to the 35 per cent who were successful in the first quarter of 2017, or the 40 per cent accepted in 2015. In other words, recent history suggests half or more of those Haitians now arriving in Montréal ultimately will not be approved to stay in Canada.

Is the federal government doing anything to speed up the processing of these claims?

So far, new measures taken by Justin Trudeau’s government have not focused on asylum-seekers from countries like Haiti. Instead, the emphasis has been on would-be refugees from countries where political persecution is blatantly prevalent, especially in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. For instance, this spring an IRB “expedited process,” which had already sped up acceptance of some refugee claims from countries like Iraq and Syria, was expanded to cover more conflict-engulfed countries, including Afghanistan and Yemen. But that process, which means hearings don’t always have to be held before claims are accepted, isn’t available for Haitians, who generally face a harder time proving to the IRB that they are at risk of being persecuted back home.

What is the process for assessing the refugee claims of those who arrives in Canada seeking asylum?

Every refugee protection claim is decided by a member of the IRB’s refugee protection division, generally after a hearing that can last a half day, a full day, or even stretch over several days. The individuals must demonstrate that they face persecution in their home country. There’s also a shorter process, introduced earlier this year, with hearings lasting perhaps two hours, for claims the IRB deems to be straightforward. An IRB official pointed out, however, that being shunted over into the shorter process isn’t necessarily good news for an individual seeking to start a new life in Canada—it can mean that officials regard the claim as straightforward in the sense that it will probably be rejected.



Will the Haitian asylum-seekers in Montreal get to stay?

  1. I hope so.

    • so when does ‘the ends justify the means?’

      good bye to laws and social justice of a society…

      • What country did your family come from?

        • How many have you housed in your backyard Em.?

  2. I consider myself very pro-immigration and I also support the refugee process. But…

    Yes, a ‘but’.

    I do have an issue with those that claim refugee status knowing full well that they will be rejected. They only make their claim to put things off for a few more years, maybe getting lucky enough to marry in or have a Canadian kid, anything to basically jump the immigration queue. Yes, I have an issue with that.

    I feel it is very important to allow refugees, to hear their case, because there really are people out there in desperate need. But, I don’t have any problem with making their stay unpleasant while waiting to be heard. I get that paying for the resources to intern those waiting, to quickly hear their case, can cost more than it would cost to just let them in and pay for the welfare while they wait. But, there are principles at stake, and there is how would-be claimants perceive Canada.

    Knowing that walking across the border will result in being locked up for 6 weeks and then likely put on a plane back to their respective nations would very quickly separate the true refugees from the shoppers. Someone in desperate straights isn’t going to mind 6 weeks in a cage if it means a decent chance at a good life afterwards. On the other hand, the refugee shoppers, the ones just looking for another few years free ride, may think twice when that cop yells out that they are illegally crossing our border.

    If we’re into infrastructure projects, to boost the economy as they say, then hiring a few thousand more bureaucrats to quickly process refugee claims might not be a bad choice.

    • Fuck the queue……90% of Canada is empty, and those people need a home.

      We’re not playing by tea-party rules.

      • Fine, double, triple… dump the limits on immigration entirely if you want. Me… I’d rather have the people with the best education, the best health, the best prospects for employment. I’d take any one of them over someone that figures “hey, if I just take a taxi to the border, I can hustle my way in.” It’s not the numbers that concern me, it’s the quality.

        • Your source for that?

      • No, paying tens of thousands in welfare payments is not a ‘game’.

    • From my understanding, to claim refugee status, you must claim it in the first country you arrive in after leaving the country you are fleeing. By Travelling from Haiti to he USA, then coming to Canada, they would not be refugees, they would be economic migrants. Most of the refugee claimants are not “skilled” workers, meaning they will immediately go onto government assistance, in a system they did not contribute to, or, will take work away from our own unskilled workforce

      Yes we do need more immigrants in Canada, our low birthrate requires this, but we need legal immigrants, not those hopping tho the front of the que and as you stated, I would prefer professionals and skilled workers

      • We have a point system….which has been so strict that at one point Bill Gates couldn’t have gotten in

        You may wish for the finest in the world…..but refugees are people in need, and we follow the UN treaty on them

        Interesting how you assume all refugees are rig-raff

        • Following the UN treaty is one thing, but adding numerous ridiculous bonuses to it is entirely another matter.

          BTW, it may be a sensible idea to assume, initially, that all refugees are ‘riffraff’.

      • Source of all that misinformation?

  3. These people were in the US on a temporary basis after the earthquake in Haiti. It is time they went home.

    They are not refugees and are just trying to jump the immigration line.

    They should be sent back and made an example of as they are trying to take advantage of the generosity of Canadians and the political correctness of our government.

    Finally Canada should have a total number of immigrants/refugees that it accepts annually and the more refugees it accepts should mean that it accepts less immigrants.

    I have no problems with refugees, but do not think that it is acceptable for people to try and subvert the system using the refugee claim to bypass the immigration system.

    Refugees should be able to prove their status and the onus should not be on Canadians to prove that they are not refugees.

  4. I do not understand how the new US administration states that it wishes to follow the Canadian immigration policies, because it obviously would never follow our policies. It should be vice versa. Especially with regards to the private sponsorships where the so-called sponsors disappear once the refugees arrive into the country. Thus, the additional burden of tens of thousands of welfare dollars from local governments, i.e., in addition to the overwhelmed federal immigration budget.

    Enough already!

  5. I have no problem with immigration, after all our families origins most likely come from outside Canada. However, over the years we are now obligated by the policies, procedures, guidelines and laws have been introduced. This new wave of refugees are by definition, “illegal”. As such they should be turned back at the border. They are the problem of the USA as that was the 1st country they entered after leaving their own country. (Canada – USA Safe Third Country Agreement).