August 2, 2017 / 11:36 PM / in 2 months

Canadian authorities open Montreal's Olympic Stadium to house asylum seekers

FILE PHOTO: Calgary Stampeders players train during the team's Grey Cup practice at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, November 21, 2008. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian health authorities and aid workers are using an Olympic stadium to shelter asylum seekers as a growing number of people walk into the country from the United States.

The Quebec Red Cross and local health authorities opened Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday to asylum seekers brought in by bus after having crossed the U.S. border, Red Cross spokeswoman Stephanie Picard said.

The city is seeing a growing influx in refugee claimants coming from the United States and is scrambling to house them all. The Red Cross is assisting with beds and providing bedding and other personal-care items.

Montreal’s health authority would not provide exact numbers on how many people are being housed in the stadium, built for the 1976 Olympics and which now serves as an event space.

More than 4,300 people have walked across the U.S. border into Canada this year seeking refugee status. The vast majority of them come to Quebec, according to figures from the federal government.

Many asylum seekers who spoke to Reuters say they left the United States fearing President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.

People who cross the border illegally to file refugee claims are apprehended and held for questioning by both police and border officials before being allowed to file claims and live in Canada while their application is processed.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre welcomed the asylum seekers on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, saying 2,500 people had come in July alone. He said on Twitter that providing for the new arrivals is a “humanitarian gesture.”

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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