Montreal's Olympic Stadium turns into shelter for asylum seekers

By Allen Cone  |  Aug. 2, 2017 at 3:40 PM
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Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Montreal's Olympic Stadium became a temporary shelter Wednesday for migrants crossing the U.S.-Canada border and seeking asylum.

Between 100 and 450 cots will be set up in a hallway at the stadium to accommodate the influx of people while Quebec officials process their asylum claims and look for permanent housing, the CBC reported. About 20 showers in a locker room in the basement are also available tot the asylum seekers.

The stadium hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and was home to the Montreal Expos baseball team until the franchise moved to Washington in 2004. It also has been used to host the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, and the Montreal Manic and Impact soccer teams.

An Olympic Park spokesman said the request to use the stadium came Friday.

"We were quick to say, 'OK, how much space do we need?' " Cédric Essminimy told CBC. "And in 24 hours, everything was set."

Officials plan to use the stadium for migrants until the fall.

About 90 percent of the refugees currently arriving in Quebec are Haitians fearing deportation from the United States, said Francine Dupuis, spokesperson for the Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers, the provincial government organization.

"Usually it comes and goes and it stabilizes quite fast," she told the BBC. "In this case what we are fearing is it might not stabilize."

In May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Haitians living in the United States since the 2010 earthquake will be protected from deportation until Jan. 22. At the time, 58,706 recipients of temporary protective status from Haiti were living in the United States, the officials said.

Dupuis said because of Montreal's large Haitian community, "there is a stronger attraction to coming to Quebec for Haitians than in other provinces."

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre posted in French on Twitter, saying the city welcomes the new arrivals.

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