September 15, 2017 / 5:58 PM / a year ago

Asylum seekers walking into Canada's Quebec more than doubled in August

TORONTO (Reuters) - About 6,000 asylum seekers illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border into Quebec in August, more than double July’s total, taking the province’s tally so far this year to over 12,000, government data showed.

FILE PHOTO: A pregnant mother and her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Amanda, who stated they were from Haiti, are watched by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers as they prepare to cross the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada, from Champlain in New York, U.S.A. August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

The surge has prompted a backlash from opposition politicians and anti-migrant groups in the primarily French-speaking province.

As of this week almost 1,300 asylum seekers were in temporary housing in and around Montreal, the province’s largest city, according to the Quebec government.

That has put Canada on track to get more refugee claims this year than any since 2001. The surge is straining a system already grappling with the worst delays in years.

Many of the most recent arrivals are Haitians who have been living in the United States after a devastating 2010 earthquake and who face deportation when their temporary protected status is expected to expire in January. 

Videos posted on the messaging service WhatsApp and other social media have promoted Canada as a country with an open-door policy for refugees.

But refugee claimants must convince decision-makers in Canada that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. Haitian citizens have had a lower-than-average rate of being accepted as refugees in Canada, with 35 percent being accepted the first quarter of 2017, compared to an overall average of 65 percent.

Canada lifted its own ban on deportations to Haiti last summer. So far this year it has deported 474, up from 100 the year before.

The federal government has sent members of parliament to counter the misinformation that Canada grants all applicants permanent residency.

Misinformation “remains a problem,” Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, wrote in an email. “It is concerning that some are making decisions on the basis of falsehoods and misinformation. To be clear, Canada does not have and is not considering special treatment for any nationality.”

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and David Gregorio

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