Newspaper article The Canadian Press

About 100 Soldiers Help with the Crush of Asylum Seekers at Quebec Border

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

About 100 Soldiers Help with the Crush of Asylum Seekers at Quebec Border

Article excerpt

Asylum seekers: soldiers lend a helping hand

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SAINT-BERNARD-DE-LACOLLE, Que. - Teams of Canadian soldiers stretched canvas across the metal frames of tents at a camp site near the Quebec-U.S. border Wednesday as they helped fellow authorities cope with the crush of asylum seekers crossing into Canada.

The site, located on a flat stretch of grass behind the building where asylum claimants are bused in from the border, was expected to accommodate up to 500 people.

"We have about 100 personnel here on the ground who will set up 25 tents in order to house approximately 500 people," Maj. Yves Desbiens said in an interview in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

"We're going to set up lighting as well, and heating and we're going to have flooring installed."

The soldiers will have no role in security matters and will not participate in law-enforcement tasks. All but a few will return to their home base once the site is completed.

Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr said the camp was being set up because too many people were crossing the border for them to be processed immediately.

In a phone interview, she said it can currently take two or three days to process a refugee claim and most people would not stay in the camp longer than that.

She said border services would be responsible for providing food, water, beds and blankets.

By 5:30 p.m., the tents had been erected and strung with hanging lights as soldiers continued to lay down wooden flooring.

Gadbois-St-Cyr said the camp would be ready to accept people "in a short time" but could not say exactly when that would be.

Earlier in the day, in nearby Hemmingford, some 40 asylum seekers sat under white tents at an impromptu reception centre that has sprung up on the Canadian side of a popular illegal border crossing.

The atmosphere appeared relaxed as border crossers lined up for lunch boxes handed out by RCMP personnel and waited to be shepherded onto buses for the 10-minute drive to the Lacolle processing station. …

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