Canada military sets up tents at US border for Haitian refugees

August 10, 2017

Refugees wait after being processed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after crossing the Canada/US border near Hemmingford, Quebec on August 6, 2017. (AFP)

The Canadian military began setting up tents near the US border on Wednesday to house a surge of Haitian refugees from the United States.

The modular tents being erected in the town of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, 60 kilometers (38 miles) south of Montreal, are equipped with lighting and heating equipment and will accommodate up to 500 asylum seekers, the army said in a statement.

The move comes as Haiti's Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue, along with the minister for Haitians living abroad Stephanie Auguste, met with Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil to discuss the flow and needs of Haitian asylum seekers arriving in Canada on foot.

Many of the Haitians were living in the United States for several years but now face expulsion after US President Donald Trump said that he would not extend temporary asylum granted to 60,000 Haitians affected by a devastating 2010 earthquake. The special status is due to expire at the end of the year.

"Assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces was requested to support the civilian authorities of the government of Canada to temporarily accommodate asylum seekers at the border," the Canadian military said.

"On August 9, nearly 100 soldiers from Joint Task Force (East) will set up tents in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle," it said.

Since late July, more than 2,500 Haitians have fled the United States seeking asylum in Canada, crossing the border into the Francophone province of Quebec. The flow continues at a steady pace, according to Canadian officials.

Montreal's capacious Olympic Stadium is being used to house recent arrivals, and a mothballed hospital is being reopened to accommodate even more asylum seekers.