Finding Solutions for Problems Faced by Asylum Seekers

Montreal Community Organizations Demand Dignity and Rights for Asylum Seekers

On January 24, a number of community organizations in Montreal held a press conference "to respond to the distress of asylum seekers and address the flaws of a deficient reception system."

Their joint press release informed that "despite the determination and efforts undertaken to address the challenges of a crisis that continues to deepen, community resources are lacking, with the teams nearing exhaustion. This new demand just adds to the list of other urgent needs of a vulnerable population exacerbated by the pandemic and its socio-economic repercussions."

Jean-Sébastien Patrice, Director General of the MultiCaf Cafeteria, a food community resource covering Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges area, said: "Our services have been stretched to the limit. We're at 400 per cent capacity, minus any significant funding to address emerging needs."

The coalition, which groups together coordination committees in 13 Montreal districts, is urging the governments of Quebec and of Canada to act quickly and cooperatively to address the urgent needs of asylum seekers and provide them access to all public services, so that they are treated with dignity and their rights are recognized.

"The ineligibility of asylum seekers to a good number of state programs and services places this particularly vulnerable population in an even more precarious situation," notes Stephan Reichhold, Director of the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI).

Amongst other things, the coalition is demanding increased funding so that community organizations in all sectors are able to fulfil their mission and strengthen their capacity to provide adequate assistance to asylum seekers. They are also calling for the annulment of the 1996 Council of Ministers' decision limiting access to public services for asylum seekers; that asylum seekers be eligible for Quebec's Ministry of Immigration, Francization and Integration's entire Program of Support and Assistance to Integration (PASI), as well as subsidized child care services and employability measures financed by Service Québec; improved legal support services; and the establishment of a transitory shelter for those without decent lodgings.

The coalition's press release points out that although migration is not a new phenomenon, "today, worldwide, we have the highest official number of displaced persons since the Second World War, a situation that conflicts and climate change risk worsening. Yet the spontaneous mobilization and collective actions, emerging in various districts, which for months now have assisted in containing a humanitarian crisis, demonstrate the determination of Quebec society to improve the conditions for receiving asylum seekers."

What is revealed by those working to hold the society together is that both the Quebec and federal governments continue to violate their international and social responsibilities towards those who, in desperation, have come knocking at our door.

We can only rely on our own mobilizing and organizing work amongst the population to bring in immigration policies which are truly humanitarian. The rudiments of such policies are beginning to be seen in the demands put forward by those working on the ground in defence of the most vulnerable. They are voicing what it is they do not want, such as that human beings not be treated as categories or things, to be disposed of at whim, rather than as human beings, with all the rights that entails.

(Quotations translated from original French by TML.)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 2 - February 2023

Article Link:


Website:   Email: