TORONTO/MONTREAL (Reuters) – The number of asylum seekers who illegally crossed the U.S. border into Canada more than tripled last month, according to Canadian government data released on Thursday, as migrants worried about the U.S. administration’s immigration crackdown head north.
More than 3,100 people walked across the border illegally in July to file refugee claims and were arrested, up from 884 in June, the federal government said.
Ninety-six percent of them went to Quebec, where an influx of asylum seekers, primarily Haitians, is sparking a backlash from opposition politicians and anti-immigrant groups in the primarily French-speaking province.
In the first 15 days of August, an additional 3,800 asylum seekers were arrested crossing the U.S. border into Quebec, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said. More than 1,000 people are living in tents and government facilities at a Lacolle, Quebec border crossing across from upstate New York.
“It’s not a crisis. It’s a situation that is extraordinary. But it’s well-managed,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters in Lacolle on Thursday.
Canada is struggling to house and provide social assistance for the influx of asylum seekers as its refugee system faces the worst delays in years.
The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), which is responsible for hearing all asylum claims, has redeployed resources to deal with the Quebec arrivals.
“The IRB had to make adjustments to be in a position to respond to the current situation that is clearly unsustainable,” spokeswoman Anna Pape said in an email.
Canada has launched a campaign to counter misinformation about the country’s refugee policy, which is believed to be one reason for the influx of refugees.