MONTREAL – Reports here say as a surge of asylum-seeking Haitians fleeing the United States amid increasing deportation fears is overwhelming Canadian immigration agencies and has forced the opening of the massive Olympic Stadium in Montreal to temporarily house some of the refugees.
PRAIDA, a government-funded immigrant-support program in Quebec, said it received 1,200 new requests from refugees in July, almost four times the normal monthly total, according to USA TODAY.
“It’s unheard of,” PRAIDA leader Francine Dupuis told the Montreal Gazette.“In 30 years, I’ve never seen this kind of volume or intensity.”
Dupuis said most of the new arrivals are Haitians who fear their temporary resident status in the US will be revoked, reported USA TODAY on Friday.
It said the dire concern began to emerge in May when the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would extend immigration protections for almost 60,000 Haitians living in the US for six more months — but urged them to start returning home.
Many came to the US in the aftermath of Haiti’s massive 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and destroyed much of the French-speaking Caribbean nation, USA TODAY said.
Jean Dorméus, who led a youth group in Cap-Haitien, is among Montreal’s new arrivals.
He told the Gazette he fled Haiti six months ago when individuals threatened to kill him and his family.
He said his father was assassinated, so he and his mother and sister fled to the Dominican Republic, then to Mexico before crossing into San Diego, California, and asking for asylum, according to USA TODAY.
He said he was told his chances for asylum were slim and odds of deportation strong.
“It’s not good for us there now,” Dorméus told the Gazette. “It’s not safe in the US, and I can’t go back to Haiti.”