Old Olympic Stadium Turned into Refugee Welcome Center

By Ella Bergquist January 29, 2020 1 min. read
Refugees Welcome in Canada

Canada has seen a significant increase of asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States seeking a new life in Canada. Local authorities in Quebec, Canada have repurposed Montreal’s old, unused, Olympic Stadium into a new refugee welcome center for these asylum seekers. The local government agency that helps refugees are called PRAIDA; this agency told sources that more than 1,000 asylum seekers cross the US border into Canada just in July 2017. This number is much higher than last years number of only 180.

In January 2018, the temporary status for Haitians to stay in America due to the 2010 earthquake, is expiring. Many of these Haitians are migrating to Canada to avoid being deported back to Haiti where they would most likely live in poverty. Many Haitians don’t want to move back to Haiti as it means they will be living in poverty, facing persecution or, for a fifth of them with U.S.-born children, being separated from their families. There has been a wave of Haitians migrating to Canada in the past month, and many people expect it to continue in the next six months as well. “Knowing Canada is a land of welcome, the word going around is that it’s open to Haitians,” said Serge Bouchereau, who helped establish an advocacy group for Haitians without status.

In the past, YMCA’s have been used to house new arrivals temporarily, but with the overwhelming surge of refugees, there just isn’t enough room. On Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017, was the first-day refugees arrived at the Stadium to their new temporary home. “Volunteers from the Quebec Red Cross helped set up the cavernous, concrete stadium for a brief stay with cots and food in the rotunda, ” says a local news station. “The stadium was the main venue of the 1976 Olympics. It has not had a primary tenant since the Montreal Expos left in 2004.”

The Olympic Stadium will be holding up to 450 refugees for several months at a time but currently, it can not provide permanent shelter, given the event schedule. It was said that it only took about 24 hours to convert the old 1970’s stadium into a welcome center for refugees. “So far, 150 cots — arranged neatly into rows among the concrete walls of a windowless area…of the stadium — have been set up, along with access to showers and a cooking area.”