Libya navy bars foreign ships from migrant ‘search and rescue’ zone

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  • As Surge of Migrants Crossing Into Quebec Tests Canada’s Welcome

The Libyan navy on Thursday ordered foreign vessels to stay out of a coastal “search and rescue zone” for migrants headed for Europe, a measure it said targeted NGOs.

“We want to send out a clear message to all those who infringe Libyan sovereignty and lack respect for the coastguard and navy,” Libyan navy spokesman General Ayoub Qassem told a news conference in Tripoli.

General Abdelhakim Bouhaliya, commander of the Tripoli naval base where the conference was held, said that “no foreign ship has the right to enter” the area without permission from the Libyan authorities.

They did not specify the scope of the exclusion zone.

Meanwhile, the crowd of asylum seekers who gathered the other day outside this city’s Olympic Stadium, their temporary home, hailed from across the globe. They had fled violence, poverty, persecution and, some say, President Trump, often with only a suitcase to their name and a wisp of hope that Canada will allow them to stay.

They are part of a new surge of mostly Haitian migrants who have illegally crossed into Quebec by the hundreds every day over the past several weeks, walking over a ditch at the end of a dead-end road in upstate New York. They are seeking to benefit from a loophole in a treaty between the two countries that allows them to make refugee claims in Canada if they do not arrive at legal ports of entry.

“I lost everything in Haiti, but now I’m afraid the U.S. will send me back,” said Jonathan Luima, 44, a Haitian migrant who arrived in the United States last year. “Canada is my only hope.”

This recent influx of asylum seekers poses a political and diplomatic test for the government of Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, as it seeks to balance its publicly compassionate statements toward refugees with a strict immigration system.

The Canadian government lifted a temporary protection policy for Haiti in 2014 and resumed deportations in March. And despite the widespread impression among the would-be immigrants that Canada is a safe haven, there is no guarantee they will be allowed to stay.

“Canada is portrayed as very welcoming, but we’re not open to every kind of immigrants,” said Mireille Paquet, an expert on immigration policy at Concordia University in Montreal. “Being poor is not a reason to get refugee protection.”

Nonetheless, refugee advocates say the government is essentially encouraging people to come into the country — and to bypass the treaty — by setting up processing centers at popular illegal crossing points, and arranging for shelter.

The Canadian military announced on Wednesday that it would build a camp for 500 asylum seekers near the Quebec-United States border. Last week, the authorities opened the temporary housing center in the stadium, with space for 1,050 beds until September.

On a recent visit to the border crossing in Champlain, N.Y., taxicabs arrived at the dead end of Roxham Road practically every 15 minutes, stopping a few feet from a ditch that separates the United States and Canada. The passengers clutched their luggage, ignored a “no pedestrians” sign and made the short walk into Quebec.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers are supposed to warn those arriving here that they will be arrested for breaking international law by crossing illegally. But one officer instead greeted the migrants with a simple question: “Are you from Haiti?”

Some of the migrants said concerns about the immigration policies of Mr. Trump had convinced them that Canada was their only option. Deportations of undocumented Haitian immigrants, though, were ordered to resume under the Obama administration.

Zee with additional report from MSN

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