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Canada Quebec to give welfare cheques to asylum seekers next week

An asylum seeker is escorted by RCMP officers as he crosses the border into Canada on Aug. 21, 2017 near Champlain, N.Y.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Quebec will begin handing out welfare cheques to as many as 4,000 asylum seekers next week, the province's employment minister said Thursday.

"Quebec has responsibilities in immigration," Francois Blais told a news conference.

"Now they'll be getting welfare, they'll be able to rent an apartment and get out of temporary accommodation, which is a good thing because it is pretty costly."

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While the minimum basic monthly payment will be $623, Blais said recipients will have to undergo a "revenue test" beforehand to determine if they are eligible for all of that amount.

There will also be an additional sum depending on the recipient's family status.

The three-day operation will take place at Montreal's Palais des congres convention centre, beginning next Wednesday.

Blais described the overall situation as "exceptional" and is not excluding asking Ottawa to help reimburse some of the welfare costs.

Nearly 10,000 people have been apprehended at the border since the start of the year as they've sought to enter Canada in order to claim refugee status – almost equivalent to the total number of claims filed for all of 2013.

Of those who have arrived this year, nearly 7,000 have arrived just since July, the vast majority at an unofficial crossing point between Quebec and New York.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said one option being explored is accelerating the process to give those people temporary work permits so they will be less dependent on the temporary social supports in place.

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