An RCMP officer warns a group of people who claimed to be from Haiti not to illegally cross the border into Canada from Champlain, New York on August 4, 2017. Migrants have been crossing the border in greater numbers in recent weeks. / AFP PHOTO / Geoff Robins (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
By NAN Contributor
News Americas, TORONTO, Canada, Weds. Aug. 9, 2017: Fake news reports on Facebook, Whatsapp and YouTube of asylum in Canada is sending thousands of U.S.-based Haitians, facing potential deportation under the Donald Trump administration, fleeing to their North American neighbor.
According to CBC Canada, a WhatsApp message claimed that: “The Consul of Canada in the USA held a meeting in New Jersey for more than two hours (and) invited and even encouraged all Haitians (with or without TPS) to apply for residency in Canada.” It also stated that the Canadian government will welcome them and even cover any “fees.”
The false message was also reposted in Facebook groups and other social media sites and has since sent thousands of Haitians with and without Temporary Protected Status, to cross the border into Canada.
Many are illegally cross the border into Canada from Champlain, New York, hoping to secure residency there because of the fake messages. According to Canadian officials, some 250 to 300 people have sought asylum in Canada every day this month, up from around 50 a day in July.
To cope with the increase, Montreal’s Olympic stadium has been used as a temporary shelter for up to 1,050 asylum seekers.
The Haitians are fleeing the US under threat of deportation in January since the Trump administration has only offers a mere six months extension of TPS to some 60,000 Haitians and has told them to use the time to prepare to return to their homeland.
But the fake news now could mean many of these Haitians will face deportation back to the US or even Haiti if their asylum claims in Canada is rejected.
According to CBC news, the fake messages began circulating in June after New York immigration lawyer, Macx L. Jean-Louis, organized a presentation on immigration to Canada at a church in New Jersey that featured Toronto lawyer Veronica Wilson.
Wilson told CBC she explained the point system at the packed event, saying skilled workers had a leg up and that many might be able to qualify as immigrants because they could speak French. However, she said there was no discussion of Haitians crossing into Canada outside legal ports of entry.
Meanwhile, the Haitian Diaspora Organization in Miami, is one of the Diaspora groups promoting immigration to Canada for Haitians. Executive Director, Jude Metellus, told CBC he launched a social media campaign to encourage Haitian nationals with no other option to try crossing the Canadian border outside of the established checkpoints.
He said he started the campaign after he read Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response to Trump’s move to ban immigration from Muslim countries. Metellus also admitted he those on his group’s Facebook page and his Whatsapp followers that the fastest and “best” way into Canada “is to literally drive up to the border and just say that they are requesting asylum.”
The Canadian fake asylum news comes on the heels of a joint effort between the Haiti National Police (HNP) and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti in March, which had to work with Facebook to remove three profiles that were impersonating the U.S. Embassy. The fraudulent profiles, which included “Ambassy usa in haiti” and “Ambassade des Etats unis en Haiti port au prince,” advertised fake visa programs. Applicants were directed to non-Embassy telephone numbers to reach people who pretended to be Embassy employees.
These profiles were fraudulent and several dozen Haitian citizens lost hundreds of dollars each by transferring money to bank accounts in the scam, lured with the promise that their visas would be automatically approved for a training program or scholarship opportunity.