Asylum seekers coming through Montreal airport in record numbers

Roxham Road, a notorious unofficial border crossing, might be closed but as advocates predicted, asylum seekers have found another way to enter Canada in record numbers: Montreal’s Trudeau Airport.

Arturo Nava is fresh off a flight from Mexico City, ready to start a new life in Canada.The petrochemical engineer came on a tourist visa, but as soon as he landed in Montreal, he requested refugee status.

“It’s because of the situation in Mexico,” Nava told Media, luggage and asylum papers in hand.

He says there is a lot of talk in Mexico about how supportive Canada is to refugees, though he admits he didn’t have much information about what the process fully entails.

“Nervous to be honest. I didn’t know if I was going to be deported, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.

Nava is one of thousands of Mexicans who are coming to Quebec to claim refugee status.

Immigration Canada numbers show that in 2023, Quebec processed a total of 25,755 asylum claims at the airport. That’s more than double the amount of 2022, which was 11,665. In general, asylum requests in Quebec have exploded in the past two years, according to the province’s immigration ministry.

In 2021, Quebec received 10,085 requests, compared to 59,740 in 2023.

Most of the requests come from people of Mexican citizenship. In 2021 there were 1,335 requests from Mexican citizens. In 2023, the government received 15,210 requests. A high number of people with Haitian or Colombian citizenship also requested refugee status in the province.

Those who land at Trudeau Airport, and have nowhere to stay after requesting refugee status, are sent to a shelter run by the Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers known as PRAIDA.

It’s where Mexican citizen Lizbeth Valencia has been staying at for a few days. She says it has been harder than she thought it would be.

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