The federal government has spent almost $94-million since the last election booking entire hotels for months to accommodate an influx of asylum seekers entering Canada, according to an access-to-information request.

Since September, 2021, the Immigration Department has paid $93,886,222 for “long leases” with hotels, mostly in Quebec, setting them aside for asylum seekers, including those entering the country through the irregular border crossing at Quebec’s Roxham Road.

The department booked 30 hotels between April and December last year – 10 in Montreal alone, according to a redacted response to the access-to-information request.

The Immigration Department said it wants to help take pressure off the provinces, even though the housing of asylum seekers is a provincial responsibility.

By block booking hotel rooms, it can ensure there are enough places to house the “the rising volume of asylum claimants crossing between the ports of entry, who have no housing options available to them,” said Nancy Caron, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

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She added that most come through the Roxham Road and Lacolle border crossings in Quebec from the United States.

The discovery of the body of Haitian migrant Fritznel Richard near Roxham Road this month reignited a debate in Quebec about the irregular border crossing, about an hour’s drive from Montreal.

A briefing document for the Immigration Department’s deputy minister on irregular migration from July last year said at that time the government had 1,721 rooms leased in 24 hotels in 12 locations across Canada.

It said a big rise in airport arrivals, mainly in Montreal, in June last year meant that the department had to transfer asylum claimants from Quebec to hotels in Ottawa

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