By Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada has granted refugee status to about 10 percent of the 298 Haitian border crossers whose applications have been processed this year, according to government data released on Wednesday.
That could bode ill for the 6,000 Haitians still in the refugee queue who illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border by foot fearing that U.S. President Donald Trump would revoke their Temporary Protected Status.
And it may discourage more from illegally crossing into Canada after the U.S. government on Monday said it would end protected status for nearly 60,000 Haitians living in the United States in July 2019.
Of the 298 Haitian applications processed so far this year, 68 were abandoned by the asylum seekers, which means they did not turn up for their hearings, the data released from the Immigration and Refugee Board showed. Another 62 withdrew their applications, according to the data from the quasi-judicial body whose tribunals determine refugee claims.
Montreal-based refugee lawyer Eric Taillefer said he thinks the Haitians who already made the border crossing did not understand Canadian laws on granting asylum.
"They don't understand the evidence threshold, they don't understand, maybe, the definition of a refugee," he said.
The Canadian government has dispatched parliamentarians to talk to U.S. diaspora communities and dispel myths around Canada's immigration and refugee systems. Haiti-born politician Emmanuel Dubourg was in New York City this week.
The high rates of abandoned claims could be because asylum seekers had trouble navigating the system and were not aware they needed to show up at a hearing, Taillefer said.
Haitians are among some 17,000 asylum seekers who have walked across the border into Canada so far this year. Border crossers from other countries fared better, with 46 percent of Nigerian claims accepted, and 94 percent of Turkish people and 88 percent of Syrians approved.
The stream of people crossing the border has eased since August, when there were hundreds each day, but Canadian authorities are planning for more people in the winter months.
The federal government is paying a Quebec company C$1.2 million (£0.70 million) to set up heated trailers to accommodate up to 200 people at a temporary encampment where asylum seekers have been staying while they await processing by the Canada Border Services Agency.
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Jim Finkle and Diane Craft)