Eugene discusses TPS refugee crisis with Canadian officials

Eugene discusses TPS refugee crisis with Canadian officials
Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene represents a district with one of the largest Haitian populations in Brooklyn, New york.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Haitian-born legislator Dr. Mathieu Eugene says he has met with immigration officials in Montreal, Canada 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 in the United States for undocumented Haitians set to end in January 2018, Brooklyn Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene said on Thursday that many of his compatriots in the US are entering Canada illegally rather than face deportation back to Haiti.

Eugene, who represents the predominantly 40th Council District in Brooklyn and the first Haitian to be ever elected to New York City Council, said that he 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,” he said. “The reality is that they have not received the right information. They are convinced that the doors are open, that there is hope, and that they will stay in Canada.”

Eugene said he plans 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, Eugene said, while in Canada, he 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.

Eugene noted that the number of Haitians seeking asylum in Canada “has risen steadily into the thousands since the [US] Department of Homeland Security declared it would issue a reduced six-month extension for TPS in May.”

While United States President Donald J. Trump is clamping down on illegal immigration, thousands of Haitians with TPS in the US are rushing to the border crossing in Champlain, upstate New York, willing to face arrest in their pursuit of a better life, according to reports.

The popular stop near the border station at Lacolle, Quebec, Canada is quickly becoming a path to a new life for immigrants — and something of a tourist attraction, reported the Miami Herald.

It said the migrant surge has overwhelmed Canadian officials who, after opening Olympic Stadium in Montreal to asylum seekers, recently reopened a shuttered hospital to accommodate the growing numbers, and deployed the military to construct a tent city near the official border crossing at St. Bernard-de-Lacolle.

The refugees have decided that getting arrested with an uncertain future in Canada is better than risking deportation under Trump, the Herald said.

Responding to the influx of refugees in his province, Quebec’s Prime Minister Philippe Couillard told the Canadian press that “it’s unfortunate” that asylum seekers have been led to believe that being admitted into Canada was “a done deal.”

He and other officials stressed that, despite the warm reception and treatment refugees have received, there is an immigration process, adding that arriving migrants will have to demonstrate why they should not be returned to their home countries, according to the Herald.

“We have the notion here people are being told, ‘Go to Canada, it’s welcoming. Just walk right in, the streets are paved gold and get a job,’” said Paul Clarke, the executive director of Action Réfugiés Montréal, which works with refugees seeking asylum in Canada.

“But it’s not like that,” he added. “People have to make a refugee claim. They have to state why they are being persecuted or fear persecution in their home country for their race, religion.

“The statistics in Canada for the last couple of years show that only 50 percent of Haitians meet that test,” Clarke continued. “Only 50 percent are accepted as refugees in Canada. But we kind of get the sense that’s not what’s being told in the States.”

While the wave of Haitians crossing into Canada has been fueled by fears that the US will send them back to Haiti early next year, when Haiti’s TPS is set to end, the community has been bombarded with misleading and false messages on WhatsApp, social media and Creole-language radio saying that Canada is offering free residency, the Herald said.

The paper said that, in one message, a man claiming to be an attorney says the Canadian Consul in the United States is inviting “and even encourages all Haitians with or without TPS to apply for Canadian residency.”

More than 6,500 asylum-seekers have crossed into Quebec province since the beginning of the year, and most estimates say about half are Haitians, according to the Herald.

Migrant families are told they will be arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before crossing the US to Canada at the border along Roxham Road, the Herald said.

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