New refugee centre at Lacolle to deal with influx from U.S.
www.montrealgazette.com | February 21, 2017
ST-BERNARD-DE-LACOLLE — As if on cue, the family emerged from a taxi on the other side of the border: two men and a young woman from Eritrea, about to carry a newborn baby into Canada.
They might have known that like hundreds of others to walk up Roxham Rd. from the United States in the past month, they would promptly be arrested by RCMP officers waiting on the Canadian side.
But they hadn’t counted on a phalanx of journalists photographing their every move, as they pulled their tuques down low and fumbled for their passports, the stroller and pink flowered diaper bag disappearing into the back of an RCMP truck.
With a sharp rise in the number of refugee claimants illegally entering Canada through unguarded points like Roxham Rd., near Hemmingford, the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency had decided to hold a special day for the media Monday, to answer all their questions.
How many exactly are coming into Quebec?
Why are they coming?
What happens to them now?
In January, 452 people made claims at the Lacolle border, more than triple the number from January 2016 (137), inland enforcement officer Dominique Fillion told the media, which included reporters from American stations like Fox News and Vermont Public Radio.
If the trend continues, 2017 will see even more.
To cope with the influx, the CBSA has set up a makeshift refugee centre at the Lacolle border, where those who cross illegally are brought to make a refugee claim.
The centre has been open since November in the basement of an abandoned cargo storage area. Claimants may spend hours here or even overnight, sleeping on leatherette couches, while they are fingerprinted and vetted.
If they have proper identification and do not pose a security threat, they will be released to make their way to Montreal or other cities, and eventually have a hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board.