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Government announcement
April 16, 2018

Ottawa must take charge of accommodating asylum seekers


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Asylum seekers

Montréal, April 16, 2018 – In order to meet its humanitarian commitments and to be able to offer a suitable level of service to asylum seekers, the Government of Québec is setting limits regarding the accommodation capacity in Montréal. David Heurtel, Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness; Jean-Marc Fournier, Minister responsible for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie; Lucie Charlebois, Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living and Minister responsible for the Montérégie region; and Sébastien Proulx, Minister for Education, Recreation and Sports and Minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region have publicized the framework by which the government can take charge of asylum seekers in Québec.

Saturated resources

As of April 24, 1,850 daily places in temporary accommodation in Montréal will be available for people who have requested asylum in Canada and find themselves in Québec. To maintain flexibility, the Government of Québec is asking the federal government to take charge of asylum seekers entering irregularly when the occupancy rate of its sites reaches 85%.

In its role as a social actor, Québec is maintaining the services that it offers asylum seekers, but it must do so while respecting its true capacity, which has already been reached. The exceptional number of asylum seekers crossing the border in an irregular manner cannot be shouldered entirely by the Government of Québec, which cannot handle all the asylum seekers who are arriving in Québec without support from the Government of Canada.

Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration

Present in Ottawa on Wednesday for a meeting of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration, Minister Heurtel will present to his counterparts the current situation in Québec regarding the capacity to accommodate asylum seekers in Montréal. He is also expected to talk to the federal government about its intentions regarding the intervention plan that it will implement to handle the people who are crossing the border. Even though immigration is a shared jurisdiction in Québec, the federal government is solely responsible for the management of borders, the processing of asylum claims and the personnel assigned to this task.

Quotes:

A look at the data on the asylum seekers who have entered since early 2018 hints at a coming influx of just as many asylum seekers as last year if not more. Faced with this wave of current and potential arrivals, and despite federal application processing times that are getting longer, the Government of Québec is ready to continue its efforts to welcome asylum seekers who arrive at the border, according to its means. We are already implementing the efforts needed to handle these people with care and dignity. To continue on this path, and in line with our humanitarian commitment, we are setting limits to make sure that we can properly support these people and respect our accommodation capacity. However, it must be understood that our resources are limited.

– David Heurtel, Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness.

Since the federal government is solely responsible for managing the movement of asylum seekers and for the Canadian border, the Government of Québec has already made several requests regarding areas of importance, including the acceleration of admissibility processing times and the issuance of work permits. Today, we are informing the federal government of the limited capacity that we have when it comes to taking charge of these people crossing the Canadian border. In this regard, the Canada-Quebec Accord relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens does not cover services provided to asylum seekers, but only those for permanent residents. The intake of irregular asylum seekers must be an effort shared by all of Canada.

– Jean-Marc Fournier, Minister responsible for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie.

The government met this challenge in 2017 thanks to the unprecedented mobilization of the resources at its disposal, especially those from the health and social services, education and social solidarity networks, and thanks to the contribution of several partners. It is thus clear that the pressure resulting from a 700% increase in asylum seekers who arrived in Québec last year is felt and will continue to be felt particularly by resources, including in temporary accommodation, health and social services. Moreover, this pressure is intensifying with new arrivals. In its role as a social actor, Québec must maintain the services that it offers asylum seekers, but it must do so while respecting its true capacity, which has already been reached.

– Lucie Charlebois, Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living.

Québec has no control over the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada’s processing times for asylum claims, which are particularly long and continue to take several years. The mass arrival of asylum seekers in Greater Montréal inevitably adds to the already problematic situation of lack of space and makes the situation in primary and secondary schools worrying in terms of the accommodation capacity of the Quebec school system.

– Sébastien Proulx, Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports and Minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region.

Key facts

  • Since early 2017, Québec has been experiencing an exceptional situation regarding the movement of asylum seekers who are entering the province in an irregular manner.
  • According to data from the federal government, between January 1 and December 31, 2017, Québec received 24,980 asylum seekers, a 700% increase compared to previous years. The data also indicated that 50.2% of asylum claims received across Canada in 2017 were in Québec.
  • The federal government has the sole responsibility for managing Canadian borders and for managing asylum claims.

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