The bulk of the money is for overtime and maintaining a satellite office, but funds have also been spent on buses, diapers, baby food and car seats
Protesters make their way down Chemin Roxham during a protest against illegal boarder crossing near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, June 3, 2018. TYLER ANDERSON/NATIONAL POST
The RCMP has spent more than $6.6 million over the past two years to process asylum-seeking migrants at Canada’s busiest illegal border crossing in Lacolle, Que., documents show.
The bulk of the money is for overtime and maintaining a satellite office, but funds have also been spent on buses to transport the migrants, as well as diapers, baby food and car seats.
According to federal data, RCMP members apprehended 19,419 asylum seekers last year who had entered Canada between official ports of entry. The vast majority of apprehensions — 18,518 — were along the Quebec-U.S. border. That number was only marginally lower than the 2017 total of 18,836.
“Numbers (of border crossers) are slightly lower … but our members are still busy,” Sgt. Camille Habel, an RCMP spokeswoman in Quebec, said in an email.
The National Post submitted an access-to-information request in November for a breakdown of costs incurred by the RCMP in Quebec since the number of irregular border-crossing migrants started to rise in August 2016.
Numbers (of border crossers) are slightly lower … but our members are still busy
Numbers supplied by the RCMP show that more than $4.4 million has been spent on overtime and $2 million to set up and maintain a satellite office. Additionally, $78,568 has been spent on extra staffing, $72,487 on bus transportation, $17,468 for food and supplies (including diapers, baby food and blankets), and $900 for car seats to transport children safely.
Most of the migrants have been crossing a rural stretch of the border just west of the port of entry between Champlain, N.Y., and St. Bernard de Lacolle, Que.
A group of asylum seekers arrives at the temporary housing facilities at the border crossing Wednesday May 9, 2018 in St. Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.
“Normally we wouldn’t be 24-7 in one particular area, but because everyone was coming through one area, we had to establish a stronger presence there,” RCMP Insp. Martin Roach told the RCMP’s Gazette magazine last year.
The article noted that there have been some days when officers have intercepted more than 400 migrants in a single day, meaning that buses were needed to help with transport.
Police search all migrants and their belongings, verify their identification and then conduct an interview with them. This process can take up to 24 hours.
“Now if you’re hundreds of people, that’s meals, that’s diapers, baby food, all of that. Our members had to think of all of this,” Staff Sgt. Brian Byrne told the magazine.
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If police are satisfied they do not pose a national security threat, the migrants are then handed over to officials with the Canada Border Services Agency for further processing.
In November, a report from the federal parliamentary budget officer estimated that the average cost to process each irregular migrant in 2017-18 — from the time they enter Canada to the time their claims are decided at the Immigration and Refugee Board — was $14,321, or about $340 million total
Meanwhile, the federal government announced in December it would compensate residents living in the area of Roxham Road — the main entry point for asylum seekers coming into Quebec on foot — for the disruption caused by the constant presence of law enforcement.
Those living closest to the border are eligible for up to $25,000.
Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, a spokeswoman for Border Security Minister Bill Blair, was unable to say Friday what the total payout will be.
“Once the process for the payments is completed, the total amount will be available in the public accounts,” she said.