Montreal, Canada has opened its olympic stadium to house a new wave of migrants coming from the U.S.
From CBC News: A temporary welcome centre has been opened at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to house a new wave of asylum seekers coming from the United States to Quebec, many of them Haitians.
“We’ve never seen this before,” said Francine Dupuis, spokesperson for PRAIDA, the provincial government organization that helps claimants in their first months. “It’s really quite a bit more intense than what we’re used to.”
On Wednesday, asylum seekers were taken to the Olympic Stadium by bus. Among them were children and pregnant women.
In the past, PRAIDA has worked with a Montreal YMCA to temporarily provide newcomers with housing and support, but the recent surge of Haitians crossing the border from the United States has strained PRAIDA’s existing resources and forced it to open several new centres, including one at the Olympic Stadium.
Between 100 and 450 cots have been set up in the Olympic Stadium. The asylum seekers will be housed in the area with concession stands just on the border of the actual arena. It’s a windowless, concrete hallway. A spokesperson for Olympic Park said the request to use the stadium came on Friday.
“We were quick to say, ‘OK, how much space do we need?‘” Cédric Essminimy said. “And in 24 hours, everything was set.”
The Olympic Stadium is one of Montreal’s most well-known landmarks. It was built in the early 1970s as a venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics. Known locally as the Big O, it was home to the Montreal Expos until the team left the city in 2004. Dozens of other asylum seekers who crossed illegally into Quebec are still being held by the Canada Border Services Agency at the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing south of Montreal.