The province of Quebec has pledged to grant monthly welfare checks to around 4,000 asylum seekers who crossed the U.S.-Canada border at an unauthorized entry point in New York, an announcement that comes as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeks to walk back a call for migrants to enter the country freely.
In a Thursday statement, Quebecâ€™s employment minister framed the welfare payments as a way to move migrants â€“ most of whom hail from Haiti — from pricy shelters to apartments, the National Post reported.
â€śQuebec has responsibilities in immigration,â€ť said Francois Blais during a news conference. â€śNow theyâ€™ll be getting welfare, theyâ€™ll be able to rent an apartment and get out of temporary accommodation, which is a good thing because it is pretty costly.â€ť
Asylum seekers who pass a â€śrevenue testâ€ť will be eligible to receive $623 CAD ($499 USD) per month, the minimum basic amount. Additional funds will be made available to applicants depending on factors such as family status. Even at the basic level, though, the program will cost $2.6 million CAD ($2.1 million USD) to subsidize those 4,000 migrants alone.
Blais, who noted that the handout would span three days and take place at Montrealâ€™s Palais des Congres convention center, described the situation as â€śexceptionalâ€ť and did not rule out asking the Canadian federal government to reimburse some of the welfare costs.
In the wake of U.S. President Donald Trumpâ€™s inauguration, Trudeau issued an open invitation to â€śthose fleeing prosecution, terror & warâ€ť to freely enter Canada. Trump had just issued an executive order temporarily halting U.S. refugee resettlement.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
This week, however, Trudeau narrowed the scope of the invitation as Canadian officials desperately scramble to process new arrivals that continue to pour into the country from the United States, The Guardian reported.
â€śFor someone to successfully seek asylum itâ€™s not about economic migration. Itâ€™s about vulnerability, exposure to torture or death, or being stateless people. If they are seeking asylum weâ€™ll evaluate them on the basis of what it is to be a refugee or asylum seeker,â€ť he told reporters.
â€śYou will not be at an advantage if you choose to enter Canada irregularly,â€ť Trudeau declared. â€śYou must follow the rules and there are many.â€ť