Montreal

As many as 1,200 asylum seekers wait to be processed at Lacolle border crossing

With waves of migrants fleeing the U.S., the Canadian Border Services Agency says that as many as 1,200 asylum seekers are waiting to be processed at the border crossing in Lacolle, Que.

Red Cross in place to help with what CBSA director calls 'very demanding humanitarian operation'

Asylum seekers rest in a tent at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

With waves of migrants fleeing the United States, the Canada Border Services Agency says that as many as 1,200 asylum seekers are waiting to be processed at the border crossing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que.

Patrick Lefort, the CBSA regional director general for Quebec, said Lacolle border agents can process up to 230 migrants per day.

"It's a very demanding humanitarian operation," said Lefort, adding that staff has been brought in from all over the country to handle the growing number of asylum seekers showing up at the Lacolle border crossing.

 Before the surge of people crossing into Canada, Lefort said agents were handling about a dozen asylum claims daily.

Most are Haitian nationals, many of whom have been living in the U.S. for years but who now fear deportation when the temporary protection status the U.S. granted Haitians after the 2010 earthquake expires next January.

Lefort said temporary accommodations for the asylum seekers have greatly improved in the last few days, but the next step is to double the capacity of the tent village the Canadian military has been setting up at the border.

"We are in the stage of planning to add capacity so we can provide shelter or housing to a larger number of migrants," said Lefort.

Asylum seekers line up to receive boxed lunches after entering Canada from the United States at Roxham Road in Hemmingford, Que., (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The camp, which is able to accommodate up to 500 people, was set up Wednesday to handle the influx of asylum seekers — many of them arriving at an unofficial crossing on Roxham Road in nearby Hemmingford, Que.

Lefort said that up to 250 people are now crossing at Roxham Road each day.

The modular tents have floors, lighting and heating. Soldiers are still present, as construction of the camp is still underway.

Red Cross to help out, 'embarrassed' U.S. residents hand out snacks

The Canadian Red Cross is to take over logistics of running the tent village by providing beds, food, hygiene kits and medical help to the migrants waiting to be processed.

Along with providing those necessities, the Red Cross is also helping asylum seekers contact relatives, to let them know they are alive and safe.

On the American side of the border, two U.S. citizens arrived with a carload of drinks and snacks that they were hoping to hand out to migrants on their way to the Canadian border.

"We want these families to remember an act of kindness before they go into Canada, from this country," said Vermont resident Priscilla Maddox, adding she was "embarrassed" by the situation.

"We want their last memory to be one of kindness and not of fear," said her friend Wendy Doan. "This is not my America."

The Canadian Red Cross is now in charge of the logistics at the temporary camp for asylum seekers set up near the Lacolle border crossing. (Radio-Canada)

A growing number of migrants have also been taken in at different temporary shelters in Montreal, including at the Olympic Stadium, as they wait for claims to be processed.

The Quebec government said as of Thursday, 2,440 people were being housed in Montreal.

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours and Radio-Canada