Spike in asylum seekers illegally entering Canada

Montreal (AFP) - The number of asylum seekers illegally entering Canada from the United States increased by more than six times in July and August compared to previous months, official data showed Tuesday.

Canada's immigration ministry said more than 5,700 people were intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in August, while over 3,150 were detained in July.

The monthly average for the first half of the year was 727 people intercepted.

Most asylum seekers who arrived during the summer were Haitians fleeing the United States ahead of the expected loss at the end of the year of temporary protection granted to nearly 60,000 people from the country following a devastating 2010 earthquake.

In total, more than 13,200 people have been intercepted this year by the police, who then hand them over to border authorities for their asylum applications to be processed.

The vast majority of detentions are made in Quebec, where migrants from the US use a forest trail several kilometers from the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle border post, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Montreal.

Under an agreement between the US and Canada, asylum seekers must apply in their country of arrival, but this does not apply to those who manage to cross into Quebec while avoiding official entry points.

Crossing the border, often in wooded areas, ensures that the migrants' asylum applications will be considered.

But Canada rejected half of the asylum claims by Haitian nationals last year.

Faced with the sudden influx of asylum seekers, the Canadian government has increased personnel on the border and built temporary shelters for migrants.