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MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 30: General view of the Olympic Stadium prior to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semi final match between the United States and Germany on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The United States defeated Germany 2-0 and move to the final round. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Montreal Uses Olympic Stadium As Temporary Asylum For Refugees From U.S.

Montreal has transformed its Olympic Stadium into a temporary shelter for refugees fleeing the United States in the hopes of finding asylum in Canada.

Montreal Olympic Stadium used as shelter

Most of those who were bused to the stadium Wednesday are Haitians, according to CNN’s news partners CTV and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). These immigrants initially fled the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, and are now concerned about their current immigration status in the U.S. under the administration of President Donald Trump.

A spokesperson for the Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers, aka PRAIDA — the local government agency that helps refugees — told CBC more than 1,000 asylum seekers crossed the border into Quebec in July.  “In comparison, PRAIDA helped 180 people in July 2016,” according to the CBC.

The stadium — which was used to host the 1976 Summer Olympics — contains more than 100 cots, as well as blankets and metal dividers set up within its large, concrete walls.

CBC’s Alison Northcott shared a photo of the cots on Twitter:

“Volunteers from the Quebec Red Cross helped set up the cavernous, concrete stadium for a temporary stay with cots and food in the rotunda,” the Associated Press wire service writes. “The stadium was the main venue of the 1976 Olympics. It has not had a main tenant since the Montreal Expos left in 2004.”

“The city of Montreal welcomes Haitian refugees. You can count on our complete support,” Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre wrote on Twitter.

“Yet another consequence of Donald Trump’s immigration policy. #HaitianRefugees,” Coderre added in a separate tweet.

The venue will host up to 450 people for several months, but cannot serve as a permanent shelter due to the schedule of events set to be held at the stadium, the AP reports.

Trump announced on Wednesday that he planned to unveil a new immigration plan entitled the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act. This merit-based plan would only allow highly-educated and skilled workers to enter the U.S. rather than permit any immigrant who simply has family ties to the country. Experts have heavily criticized the plan, saying it would severely hurt the American economy — which gains much from low-skilled immigrant workers — by reducing immigration by up to 50 percent.

More than 4,000 people have been intercepted as they crossed into Canada this year, according to government data. Of the 4,345 crossings, 3,350 were into Quebec.

Montreal boasts a large Haitian community, which could also be a major reason for the massive influx of migrants from the country.

Haiti is still grappling with several issues, including a persistent cholera epidemic, a disastrous sewage system, and a deadly hurricane.

Haitians living in the United States since the 2010 earthquake had been given temporary protected status, which permitted them to work and prevented them from being deported. However, Department of Homeland Security officials urged Haitian recipients earlier this year to prepare for the program’s possible expiration in January.
Senior DHS officials said in May that conditions in Haiti were improving since the earthquake — and that the program could be terminated next year.
Immigrants — whether they come from Haiti or elsewhere — must meet a series of strict guidelines established by the Canadian government in order for their requests for asylum to be approved. These migrants must prove that the living situation in their home country is as unsafe as they claim.
“Asylum seekers originally from Haiti who have crossed the Canada-U.S. border could be deported back to Haiti if their application is refused because Canadian authorities deem Haiti as a sufficiently safe country,” the CBC reported.
Kathleen Weil, Quebec’s minister of immigration, diversity and inclusion, said more than 6,500 asylum-seekers have come to the province from the beginning of year through June 30.
The pace of arrivals accelerated in the latter half of July, Weil added. From July 1 to July 19, an average of approximately 50 asylum-seekers arrived per day. In the last two weeks, that average jumped to 150 asylum-seekers per day, she stated.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 30: General view of the Olympic Stadium prior to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup semi final match between the United States and Germany on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The United States defeated Germany 2-0 and move to the final round. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

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Written by Pablo Mena