Skip to main content

Asylum seeker Iftikhar Ahmed poses with daughters Amina, left, Momina at a park in Montreal, Sunday, August 13, 2017.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Some of the asylum-seekers who have recently crossed the Canada-U.S. border say they're struggling to find a place to live once they leave government-run temporary shelters.

Ahmed Iftikhar, 42, says he walked across the border from New York in late July with his wife and four children.

Since then, he says they've been moved from one temporary shelter to another: first a hotel, then the Olympic Stadium, and now a former convent in the city's Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough.

Story continues below advertisement

The shelters have been set up to receive the surging number of asylum seekers who have been crossing into Quebec in recent weeks, but they are only intended as temporary housing.

Asylum-seekers are generally expected to leave the shelters once they receive their first social assistance cheques, but several who spoke to The Canadian Press say that's easier said than done.

Iftikhar, who says he fled violence in Kashmir, says he's walked as far as he can in every direction looking for an apartment, but hasn't found anything to accommodate his family of five.

He says authorities at the shelter gave him a one-week transit pass and a list of possible addresses to check out, but so far he hasn't had any luck.

"There is nobody to help," he said as he watched his children play in a park near the shelter. "I want to leave here but I don't know what to do."

Another asylum-seeker, who gave his age as 30 but did not want to give his name, said he crossed the border last week with $34 dollars in his pocket.

He says he's passed through 11 countries since leaving his native Haiti three years ago and decided to take a chance on a new life in Canada.

Story continues below advertisement

He said he's supposed to leave the shelter and find a new place to live by Aug. 20, but without a phone he isn't sure how to find an affordable apartment, or a lawyer to help with his claim.

"Six hundred or $700 dollars isn't a lot to eat with, to sleep with," he said outside a creole restaurant a block from the shelter where he's been staying.

Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 7 alone, 1,798 people showed up at an unofficial crossing from the U.S. into Quebec.

In comparison, only 2,920 claims were filed in Quebec in all of 2015.

So far the numbers show no sign of slowing.

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for the armed forces said more tents were being set up at a temporary camp set up near the Lacolle border station to accommodate people waiting for processing.

Story continues below advertisement

Lt. (Navy) Eliane Trahan said the camp's capacity would more than double to 1,200 people, up from 500 last week.

Many of those coming to Canada, like 30-year-old Marie-Junie Joseph, are originally from Haiti.

In the United States, the Trump administration is considering ending a program that granted Haitians so-called "temporary protected status" following the massive earthquake that struck in 2010.

Joseph said the threat of deportation drove her to leave North Carolina for Canada with her husband and daughter.

"I came because the door is open here, because I heard Canada is open to immigrants" she said outside the Haitian restaurant in Montreal, her two-year-old daughter on her lap.

Canada has already lifted its own moratorium on deportations to Haiti.

Story continues below advertisement

Given the high volume of arrivals, many of the asylum-seekers now have several months to wait before their hearings before the hearings that will determine whether they can stay.

Joseph, like the others, says her family hasn't found an apartment yet.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies