Quebec Premier François Legault has issued a plea to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to redirect all asylum seekers arriving in Quebec to other provinces immediately upon their arrival at the border. Legault's request, obtained by Radio-Canada, is the latest in a series of attempts by the Quebec government to ease the flow of asylum seekers entering the province, primarily through Roxham Road.
Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette confirmed that the province's message was finally being heeded as more migrants were being sent to other provinces. Despite this, the premier wants all asylum seekers to be redirected to other parts of the country, regardless of their profile, as the situation has become "untenable."
According to Legault, the number of asylum seeker crossings, mainly through Roxham Road, has risen significantly in 2022, with around 39,000 irregular entries, in addition to about 20,000 regular entries. The premier claims that "Quebec has taken on a completely disproportionate share of Canada's asylum seekers," and that the influx is unsustainable, as the province's capacity to receive refugees has been exceeded.
The Quebec government has stated that its public services and community organizations that support refugee claimants are stretched beyond their limits. As a result, providing humane, adequate accommodation and services to asylum seekers are becoming increasingly difficult, with many struggling to find adequate housing and becoming homeless.
In addition, accommodating the increasing number of asylum seekers is also putting pressure on the province's education system and its ability to protect the French language, particularly in Montreal.
Legault is also demanding that the province be reimbursed for all costs related to welcoming and integrating migrants in 2021 and 2022, which he claims could be hundreds of millions of dollars. He also wants Trudeau to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, a message he has repeatedly conveyed in the past.
The Safe Third Country Agreement, signed in 2002 between Canada and the United States, requires migrants to submit their asylum application in the first of the two countries they enter and cannot try again at an official border crossing. However, it does not apply to irregular border crossings, which is why people who enter Canada through Roxham Road cannot be turned away.
Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon has criticized Legault for not being strong enough to influence the federal government, stating that he is not taken seriously by Ottawa. On the other hand, Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said that asylum seekers often come to Quebec to reunite with their families, and they should not be transferred against their will. However, he added that they need to be fairly distributed across the country.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have acknowledged the pressure on Quebec and Ontario, but they maintain that Canada has an obligation to uphold a "fair and compassionate system" for asylum seekers, no matter how they arrive. IRCC is working with other provinces and municipalities to identify new destinations that can accommodate asylum seekers.
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