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Asylum seekers in Québec

Over the last year, Québec has seen an increase in the number of asylum claims made in its territory. Most of these claims are being presented by foreign nationals who have been intercepted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers during irregular crossings of the United States-Québec border.


November 19, 2018

The content of this page is updated regularly.

  • On November 18, 2018, 33 new asylum seekers were provided with accommodation.
  • 645 asylum seekers are being temporarily housed in the Greater Montreal area as of November 19, 2018.
  • Between January 1 and December 31, 24,980 asylum claims were presented in Québec, of which 75.3% were submitted by people who entered irregularly. Since the beginning of 2018 and up to August 31, 2018, 18,145  asylum claims were submitted in Québec, compared to 15,055 claims during the same period in 2017.
  • Since August 31, 2018, the top five birth countries of asylum seekers in Québec are Nigeria, India, Mexico, the United States and Haiti.


What you need to know about asylum seekers in Québec

An asylum seeker is someone who, upon entering a country or during a temporary stay, requests protection in Canada. A distinction can be made between asylum seekers and refugees. A refugee is someone who has been granted asylum and who is arriving in the country as a permanent resident or who can obtain this status while in the territory, after having requested and received asylum.

Services offered

The federal government is solely responsible for border control as well as processing asylum claims and overseeing the process for recognizing refugee status.

Therefore, Québec has no authority to select people recognized as refugees who are already in its territory after having presented an asylum claim.

The Québec government provides essential services to persons awaiting a decision on their refugee claim by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. With the assistance of several organizations and the various government ministries involved (the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion, the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale, the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur and the Minsitère de la Famille), asylum seekers can access the following services:

  • temporary housing upon arrival in Québec
  • assistance in finding permanent housing on the private market
  • information sessions about life in Québec
  • last-resort financial assistance
  • preschool, elementary and secondary education
  • non-subsidized child care and community drop-in daycare activities
  • universal employment services
  • French classes (excluding allowances)
  • legal aid to prepare asylum claims, in particular
  • social services under the Program régional d’accueil et d’intégration des demandeurs d’asile (PRAIDA) au Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, which is comprised of two components:
    • psychosocial: services provided by social workers
    •  health: preventive and frontline services adapted to the needs of people seeking asylum


Questions and answers – Asylum seekers

What is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is a person who, upon arrival in the country or during a temporary stay, requests protection from Canada. The Canadian government grants asylum to certain people on its territory who fear persecution or whose lives would be in danger if they were to return to their country of origin. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board evaluates each application and renders its decision on whether or not to grant refugee status.

What is a refugee?

  • A refugee abroad is a person who is outside their country of origin and whose status is one of the following:
    • Convention refugee
    • refugee under the country of asylum class (a person who is outside their country of origin or the country where they usually reside and who is severely affected by civil war, armed conflict or a massive human rights violation).
  • A refugee abroad can receive protection from Canada. In particular, they can receive assistance from the government, in partnership with non-government organizations, or welcomed by a group of two to five people or an organization that has agreed to sponsor them. A refugee admitted while already on Canada's territory is a person:
    • who applied for refugee status in Canada and was granted refugee status by the Immigration and Refugee Board;
    • who then applied and obtained permanent resident status in Canada.

What is a person without legal status?

Under Canadian laws, every person must obtain authorization to enter Canada (students, tourists, temporary workers, etc.) and must maintain the status granted them. Therefore, a person without legal status can be:

  • a tourist or temporary resident who has not renewed his/her tourist visa or study permit, or whose work permit has expired, and who has not left Canada;
  • a person whose asylum application has been refused, who has exhausted all possible recourse and who has not obeyed a removal order;
  • a person who has illegally crossed the border and has not reported to the authorities.

What are the steps involved in the asylum application process?

Upon arrival, people who enter Québec irregularly are subjected to tests and audits (identity, health and security) by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Following these tests,  these people are directed to temporary shelters. The Québec government is committed to providing essential services to asylum seekers provided that their request is deemed admissible and up until the time Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has rendered its decision on whether or not to grant refugee status. If the IRB recognizes their refugee status, Québec can issue a Certificat de sélection du Québec.

To find out more about the steps involved in the asylum application process, consult this page.

What are the responsibilities of the federal government?

The federal government has sole responsibility for managing its borders and all designated resources. It also assumes full responsibility for rendering decisions regarding the admissibility of asylum applications and whether or not to grant refugee status.

Specifically, when asylum seekers enter the territory, the federal government carries out tests and audits regarding identity, health and security. If an application is deemed admissible, the federal government is responsible for issuing a work permit and a temporary social insurance number. The Interim Federal Health Program also funds the healthcare services needed by asylum seekers while waiting for the Immigration Refugee Board to recognize or deny their refugee status.

What are the responsibilities of the Québec government?

The Québec government is committed to welcoming asylum seekers in a dignified and safe manner. To achieve this goal, it provides essential services to asylum seekers while waiting for the Immigration and Refugee Board to render its decision on whether or not to grant refugee status.

The ministries involved ensure that the needs of asylum seekers are met in terms of temporary accommodation, assistance in finding permanent housing, healthcare and social services (funded by the Interim Federal Health Program), francization, education and last-resort financial assistance.

Do all asylum seekers who cross the border automatically come to Québec?

While Québec is currently a major entry point to Canada for asylum seekers, many then go on to other provinces, particularly Ontario.

How long do asylum seekers have to wait for a response?

Federal authorities are solely responsible for application processing times. You can consult federal timeframes on this page.

Do all asylum seekers remain in the country?

The decision rests with the federal government and the Immigration and Refugee Board. Acceptance rates vary according to various factors. To find out about acceptance rates, you can consult the Government of Canada’s website on this page.

Why do asylum seekers enter irregularly instead of going through a border crossing?

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, asylum seekers must submit their application in the first safe country they arrive in. Therefore, asylum seekers who arrive in Canada from the United States are entering irregularly in order to submit a claim for refugee protection in Canada.

For more information on this subject, consult this page on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.

Are asylum seekers given priority processing of their immigration application to the detriment of other immigration categories?

No, asylum applications are processed in parallel with immigration applications as set out in Québec Immigration Planning for the 2017-2019 Period (PDF, 1,2 Mb).

The processing of asylum applications and the processing of applications in other immigration categories (economic immigration, for example) are two separate processes that are carried out in parallel. Note that the federal government, specifically the Immigration and Refugee Board, is responsible for processing asylum applications.



For more information on the asylum seekers or immigration procedures for asylum seekers, consult:

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Last modification : 2018-11-19
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