Councilman Mathieu Eugene (center) giving remarks to Canadian officials. Photo Credit: Office of Councilman Mathieu Eugene

Council Member Mathieu Eugene met with immigration officials in Montreal on Aug. 17 to learn more about the plight of Haitian refugees with expiring Temporary Protected Status (TPS) who are seeking asylum in Canada. With the current cycle of TPS set to end in January of 2018, many Haitians living in the United States are entering Canada illegally rather than face deportation back to Haiti.

Eugene, who represents one of the largest populations of Haitians in New York City,  traveled to Montreal to gather information regarding Canada’s immigration policies, and to dispel the notion that Canada will be the “promised land” for Haitians if they cross the border for safety. The relocation is attributed in part to misleading social media posts that claim the Canadian government had invited all Haitians, with or without TPS, to apply for residency in Canada.

“The reality is that they have not received the right information,” said Eugene. “They are convinced that the doors are open, that there is hope, and that they will stay here in Canada. When I return to New York, I intend to inform my constituents that they must think twice before they make the journey into Canada.”

Accompanied by the Chairman of the Montreal City Council, Frantz Benjamin, Council Member Eugene met with a committee on Haitian immigration and toured a hosting facility for Haitian refugees who have crossed the border and are currently waiting to be processed. The number of Haitians seeking asylum in Canada has risen steadily into the thousands since the Department of Homeland Security declared it would issue a reduced 6-month extension for TPS in May.

Canada is facing a record number of asylum seekers.

“We’ve never seen those numbers,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesman Claude Castonguay. “Even though our officers are patrolling 24 hours a day all year long, we’ve never seen such numbers coming in.”

In the past six weeks, Canadian officials have intercepted 7,000 asylum seekers in Quebec, with roughly 85 percent of those crossing the border being of Haitian descent.

“Coming to Canada, asking for asylum in Canada is not a guarantee for permanent residence in Canada,” said Louis Dumas, spokesman for the immigration ministry in a Thursday press conference.

Fifty percent of those seeking asylum in Canada in 2016 had their requests denied.

Experts are cautioning those fleeing the U.S. that it’s not necessarily was to meet Canada’s asylum laws. Fear of deportation from the U.S. is not enough to be granted asylum in Canada.

“It is unfortunate that these very vulnerable people were convinced that admission as a refugee in Canada and here in Quebec would be simple, even automatic,” Quebec’s premier Philippe Couillard had posted on his Facebook last week. “That’s not the case at all. There is no guarantee that asylum applications will be accepted, given the strict rules that govern them.”

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