Quebec is preparing to open the largest accommodation center for refugee status claimants in Montreal, the location of which had been kept secret until now.
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Arrived for the most part by the famous Roxham road, the refugee status seekers will stop occupying rooms at the Hyatt hotel in Place Dupuis to settle in the north of the city from next July. They will continue to be housed and fed at public expense, but this time in an office building converted to accommodate them, our Bureau of Investigation has learned.
Located rue de Port-Royal Est, near the Sauvé metro station, in a commercial area, the building will be able to accommodate up to 700 applicants in 175 rooms for short periods after entering the country. Their stays generally do not exceed one month, the time for them to obtain social assistance benefits.
It will be the largest accommodation center for refugees in Montreal, after that of the YMCA on Tupper Street downtown, where 638 beds are dedicated to them.
Four of the five floors and part of the ground floor of the building on rue de Port-Royal Est will be occupied. The layout will not be luxurious, but it will be brand new. Most rooms do not have a private bathroom.
The CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, which oversees the reception of applicants, wanted to keep the location of the new site secret.
“For reasons of confidentiality and security for asylum seekers, we do not wish to reveal the address of the new site,” CIUSSS spokesperson Carl Thériault said by email in response to a question about it. .
However, cross-checks from public documents and interviews have enabled us to discover his whereabouts.
$5 million per year
The building belongs to the Montreal real estate firm Rodimax, owned by the Di Zazzo family. Rodimax won a public tender launched by Quebec at the end of last year. The value of the contract is $5 million per year for 10 years.
This is nevertheless a saving compared to the 200 rooms currently rented at the Hyatt hotel on Place Dupuis, whose annual bill reaches $9 million.
All these accommodation costs are reimbursed by the federal government, which assumes the costs related to refugee status claimants who arrive in Quebec in numbers not seen in five years. In 2022, via Roxham Road, we had recorded nearly 31,000 illegal arrivals at the end of October and we were heading towards a record year.
During our visit, two weeks ago, workers were busy undoing the walls and ceilings of the second floor of the building, before tackling the upper floors. The rooms were originally due to be ready this month, but there have been delays in obtaining the necessary permits for the project.
NEW ACCOMMODATION CENTER
Source: CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal call for tenders
The real estate firm that won the call for tenders for the accommodation center for asylum seekers is not its first experience with the government agency that manages the reception of refugees in Montreal.
In an interview, the vice-president of Rodimax, Alessandro Di Zazzo, indicated that he was already familiar with the Regional Program for the Reception and Integration of Asylum Seekers (the PRAIDA), since it rents offices in the organization since last year in a building belonging to his company, which is adjacent to the one intended for refugees, rue de Port-Royal Est.
It is the PRAIDA, through the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, on which it depends, which defined the parameters of the new accommodation center in the call for tenders, won by Rodimax.
Two other bidders also participated in the CIUSSS call for tenders. We were able to reach one of them. It is one of the managers of the Hotel Espresso, Paolo Di Vito.
Mr. Di Vito explained that he wanted to convert his hotel in downtown Montreal to house refugees. However, his bid was rejected, since the hotel rooms are not large enough to accommodate four single beds at a time, as indicated in the tender.
For his part, Mr. Di Zazzo recalled that his company was interested in the project because it already had vacant premises. The COVID-19 pandemic, he notes, has greatly reduced demand for office space in Montreal.
“There was a call for tenders and we made the decision to bid, since the municipal zoning allowed it [for the building on rue de Port-Royal]. It is a fairly wide zoning, it allows offices, hotel services, industry, ”notes Mr. Di Zazzo.
“It is a project, he adds, which is in the new economy, the economy of social diversity. It also helps people who arrive in the country; we must welcome them.”
NUMBER OF MIGRANTS TEMPORARILY HOSTED BY PRAIDA* IN MONTREAL
2016 : 2217
2017 : 15 864
2018 : 18 240
2019 : 19 310
2020 : 4148
2021 : 2699
2022** :14 693
* Regional reception and integration program for asylum seekers
** Until November
A large wave of refugee claimants could enter the United States through the Mexican border as early as Wednesday, which is expected to impact Roxham Road, barring a last-minute court ruling.
Due to COVID-19, the arrival of refugees had been considerably slowed down by Washington to counter the risk of contagion from certain countries. About 2.5 million asylum seekers have been turned back since March 2020.
Adopted by the Trump administration, then maintained by that of Joe Biden, the measure to restrict entries, called Title 42 (Title 42), was canceled at the beginning of November by a federal judge considering that the decline in the pandemic no longer justified it. The judge gave the US administration until December 21 to comply.
A week ago, prosecutors in 19 Republican-controlled U.S. states filed an appeal to uphold Title 42. They say they fear a “huge disaster.” Their request was denied on Friday. They are now addressing the US Supreme Court to ask it to decide.
Already last week, asylum seekers had started to gather at the Mexican border, in particular that with Texas, in view of the lifting of Title 42.
It is difficult to predict how this influx will translate to the entrances to Roxham Road, but it is almost certain that there will be an impact. A large proportion of asylum seekers who use it have first crossed the Mexican border, as several reports have shown in recent years.