Montreal’s Olympic Stadium yesterday (Wednesday) opened its doors as a welcome centre for asylum seekers entering Canada from the US amid fears of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.
The 56,000-capacity venue has been set up with cots to house the mainly (90 per cent) Haitian migrants until government financial assistance becomes available, the Associated Press news agency reports.
The domed and windowless Olympic Stadium will temporarily host a maximum of 450 people, Francine Dupuis, head of a Quebec government-funded program that helps asylum seekers, said.
She added that her organisation helped 448 people in June and 1,174 in July. More than 4,000 have entered the country since the start of the year.
“We are really stretched, really stretched. It’s much more than we have ever seen,” Dupuis said.
“They think the Trump administration will fly them back to Haiti and they don’t want to take a chance.”
The Trump administration is discussing the option of potentially ending a program that granted Haitians “temporary protected status” after the country’s earthquake in 2010, a cholera epidemic and Hurricane Matthew. To this effect, more than 60,000 Haitians could be deported back to their homeland.
The YMCA facilities and shelters are full to capacity, Dupuis said, as the influx of migrants has skyrocketed, leaving the organisation scrambling to provide housing.
The stadium in Montreal hosted the 1976 Olympics, but has not had a main tenant since the Montreal Expos baseball team left in 2004.