Montreal

Number of asylum-seekers crossing illegally into Quebec from U.S. spikes

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, 823 refugee claimants were taken into custody by the RCMP between April 1 and Nov. 30, 2016, at unguarded crossings along Quebec's border with the United States.

823 caught crossing Quebec's border between April 1 and Nov. 30, 2016, compared to 166 two years ago

The Roxham Road border crossing near Hemmingford, Quebec, is one that's being used by people seeking refuge in Canada. (CBC)

The number of asylum-seekers entering Quebec illegally from the United States has more than quadrupled in the last three years, according to an exclusive report by Radio-Canada.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, 823 refugee claimants were taken into custody by the RCMP between April 1 and Nov. 30, 2016, after illegally crossing into Quebec.

By comparison, the RCMP detained 166 asylum-seekers for entering Quebec illegally in the year between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015, and another 315 between April 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016.

Last month alone, 273 asylum-seekers entered Quebec illegally — by far the highest one-month total for the three years.

"They come regularly every week," said retired police officer Francois Doré, who lives near the Roxham Road crossing near Hemmingford, about 70 kilometres south of Montreal.

Doré said the migrants cross the Canadian border easily enough, passing under yellow tape that divides the two countries.

"Sometimes you see whole families with babies and suitcases," Doré said, adding that many arrive by taxi.

"One suitcase still had the tag from the airport in Plattsburgh [N.Y.]," he said.

Intercepting them is up to the RCMP, which monitors the crossings via patrols and surveillance cameras.

The migrants are then taken to one of the main Quebec border crossings at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Saint-Armand/Philipsburg and Stanstead, where they are turned over to the CBSA and their refugee claims are processed.

Reasons for spike unclear

The reasons for the jump are unclear, but Mitchell Goldberg, a refugee lawyers in Montreal, said applying for asylum from inside Canada can be easier.

"If you come inland, you can do all the forms — take your time, do it with your lawyer, and then submit it when you're ready, so there's an advantage in that sense to making the application inside Canada," he said.

With files from Salimah Shivji

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