Haitians leaving US to look for permanent home in Montreal

World Today

Nearly 60,000 Haitians have temporary protection status in the United States, but their future in the country is uncertain.

Officials said many may have to go back to Haiti, so large numbers are heading to Canada, hoping to find a permanent home.

CGTN’s Karina Huber has more.

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is now a shelter, providing a temporary home for hundreds of Haitians fleeing the United States.

They came to Canada through unofficial border crossings, hoping to gain asylum in a country known for being welcoming to refugees. At least 150 asylum seekers – 70 percent of whom are Haitian – cross into the province daily.

In April, the Trump administration told Haitians living in the U.S. temporarily their protection status would expire in January. Marjorie Villefranche of la Maison d’Haiti estimates 3,000 Haitians have arrived from the U.S. since.

 “I’m under the impression many are panicked. There’s a sense that they have to hurry up and get to Canada because the borders could close or something could happen,” according to Villefranche.

The influx is taxing Montreal’s temporary housing system. YMCA’s shelter is at full capacity, and the city is looking for more space to house the newcomers.

There is also a backlog of asylum seekers hoping to get a hearing. Many are being told through social media that Canada will automatically welcome them. Villefranche, however, said this is misleading.

“We give them everything they need to survive while they make their asylum claim, but it is a country where you have to go through a process like everyone else,” Villenfranche cautions.

To gain refugee status, asylum seekers need to prove they fear for their lives or face potential mistreatment in Haiti, a claim immigration lawyer Guy Nephtali says could be difficult to prove for those who left Haiti a long time ago.

“Nothing is guaranteed in immigration,” according to Nephtali. “Immigration is a very difficult law to understand. It’s mostly administrative, but there is a lot, a lot of uncertainties.”

Gaining permanent status in Canada is a challenge for Haitians with temporary status in the United States, but many are betting that in the Trump era, the odds of a positive outcome are better north of the border than they are to the south.