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Quebec seeks federal help handling border-crossers

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The Quebec government has asked Ottawa for help managing a surge of people who illegally crossed the U.S.-Canada border and are now seeking asylum in the province.

A day after Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was turned into a temporary shelter for the growing number of asylum seekers, Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said the province has “the experience to face these situations,” but needs more assistance from the feds.

Quebec is asking Ottawa to help set up a triage system along the U.S.-Quebec border to see if some of the illegal crossers can be sent to other provinces while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed.

The province is also asking for additional resources to speed up the processing of those applications, as well as help with finding more permanent accommodations for the claimants.

The Olympic Stadium was opened up to asylum seekers because Montreal’s shelters are already full.

Weil told reporters Thursday that the rate of people seeking asylum in Quebec spiked to about 150 per day in July.

Of 4,345 people who crossed the U.S.-Canada border between January and late June, 3,350 — or 77 per cent — entered into Quebec. And those figures are rising. The RCMP said they intercepted 781 people who crossed into Quebec in June, compared to 576 the previous month.

Weil said she has spoken to federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who have all pledged to work together on the issue.

All asylum claimants undergo security and health screenings, a protocol that has been in place in Canada for years.

Liberal MP Marc Miller, who represents Quebec’s Ville-Marie – Le Sud-Ouest -Ile-des-Soeurs riding, said Thursday that the federal government is committed to processing the refugee claims without compromising safety. He stressed that the “health, safety and security of Canadians” is the government’s top priority.

Paul Clarke, the executive director of Action Refugies Montreal, told CTV News Channel Thursday that it could take months to process all the asylum claims in Quebec, given the surge of applications.

He said many people will likely not get to stay in Canada. Those whose asylum claims are denied will be sent back to their country of origin, not the United States, Clarke added.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Quebec seeks federal help handling border-crossers

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