Canada to set up border camp as number of asylum seekers swells

Asylum seekers take a walk outside Olympic Stadium as security guards look on in Montreal, on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 10 August 2017

Canada to set up border camp as number of asylum seekers swells

MONTREAL: Canada has deployed soldiers to erect tents near the US border to temporarily house hundreds of asylum seekers crossing from New York state, officials said on Wednesday, an influx of mostly Haitians prompted by fear of deportation by the US government.
Around 250 asylum seekers are arriving each day in Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s mainly French-speaking Quebec province. Quebec has opened its Olympic Stadium, a former hospital and a school among other places to house people.
Heated tents will accommodate up to 500 people as Canadian border officials process mainly Haitians walking into Canada from the United States.
Nearly 100 soldiers will be in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, across the border from Champlain, New York, to set up the tents and add to temporary facilities already organized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency.
The Canadian Armed Forces were aware of the difficult situation that requires significant resources, said Daniel Le Bouthillier, a spokesman at the Department of National Defense.
The military would have no role in security matters, Le Bouthillier said in e-mailed statement. “When the site is completed, the military will return to their home base.”
Hundreds of Haitians have crossed into Quebec in recent weeks, spurred partly by false accounts of asylum seekers being able to immediately obtain residency after entering Canada.
“There is an enormous amount of fake information circulating saying that it is easy to come to Canada,” said Marjorie Villefranche, general manager of Maison d’Haiti, a Montreal community center that assists Haitian immigrants.
“They are hearing that Canada doesn’t deport people.”
The Canadian immigration ministry, on its Facebook page on Aug. 5, discouraged illegal entries and noted that messages posted elsewhere online suggesting that Canada is inviting people to seek refugee status were wrong.
Canadian authorities accepted 50.5 percent of the 410 refugee claims by Haitians heard in 2016, government data showed.
Like the United States, Canada had a deportation ban on Haitians after a 2010 earthquake. More than 50,000 people affected by Haiti’s earthquake have been allowed to remain in the United States under “temporary protected status” according to the US Department of Homeland Security.
This year, the department extended their status through next January, but officials said in May that people covered under that status should begin acquiring travel documents to return to Haiti.
Canada’s deportation ban, which was enacted after a 2004 coup and extended after the earthquake, expired in August 2016. Many Haitians who had been living in Canada for years have since raced to get permanent residency on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
In the first half of 2017, more than 4,300 asylum seekers walked across the US border into Canada. Even before the flow of Haitian asylum seekers Canada was on track to have the most refugee claims in almost a decade.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has taken a tougher stance on immigration with plans to cut legal immigration by 50 percent over 10 years.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.