Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

$7M from Ottawa for a asylum seeker reception center near Pearson Airport | Refugees on the streets in Toronto

More and more asylum seekers are arriving in Canada through airports, including Pearson Airport, the country's busiest. (Archives)

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Ottawa grants $7 million to the Peel region, a suburb of Toronto, for the construction and opening of a reception center for asylum seekers. It is to be installed near Pearson Airport, the busiest in the country.

The mayor of Brampton requested emergency assistance from the government last week.

The center will serve as both a reception center and temporary shelter, we can read in the press release published Friday by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The number of asylum seekers arriving at countries through airports is increasing. For example, in Ontario airports in September, 1,840 asylum applications were filed, almost five times more than in January.

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Refugees on the streets in Toronto

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Refugees on the streets in Toronto

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They arrive in the country, ask for asylum, then have to make do while waiting for a decision. Many of them end up in homeless shelters, which are struggling to meet demand.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown reacted favorably to the announcement of the agreement.

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Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown made a request for help during a press conference last week. (Archives)

For her part, the director of housing services for the Peel region confirmed that these funds will also be used to create two new shelters for homeless that are due to open in Mississauga soon.

The new center is expected to accommodate 800 places. These will clearly change the dynamic, declared Mayor Brown at a press conference on Friday. The complex will exclusively house asylum seekers and provide them with various support services.

Peel Region welcomes 1,200 migrants into its shelter and more than 150 sleep outside in tents, he continued.

This funding is needed now more than ever and will help ease pressure on our existing shelters, allowing us to support a longer-term response and ensure that all those who need a roof over their heads get one and receive the support they need immediately.

A quote from Patrick Brown, Mayor of Brampton

However, no precise date for the opening of the reception center has been announced. We hope to be able to open it in the first quarter of 2024, said Aileen Baird, Director of Housing Services for Peel Region.

In the meantime, Federal government funds will be used to rent hotel rooms to temporarily house asylum seekers. This is our quickest solution, said Ms. Baird.

Ms. Baird specified during the press conference that the funds granted by IRCC will also be used to open two new shelters for the homeless in the region , for a total of 250 places. Both locations are expected to open by the end of the year, according to Baird. The address of these three structures has not been disclosed.

We are still finalizing our leases with the three sites, she continued. Also, to be honest, we don't want asylum seekers or others showing up on these sites before we're ready to open them.

Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, is delighted with the announcement. That's excellent news. […] Having a structure, a single stop in which asylum seekers can access different services and a bed is something we have been asking for for years.

But she points out that $7 million is barely enough to start the project. She hopes the federal government will announce more funds soon, and that the province will do its part as well.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said she was happy with the establishment of the future reception center. Asylum seekers need somewhere to go when they arrive. […] This new reception center has the potential to serve as a focal point […] that guarantees refugees (sic) a safe place and a good start in their lives in Canada, he said she reacted by press release.

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Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow calls for more funding. (Archives)

Ms. Chow also calls on Minister Miller to help respond to the urgent homeless crisis in her city.

The Minister of Immigration recently revealed that he had offered $5 million to the City of Toronto to house asylum seekers in Exhibition center during the winter. This offer was deemed insufficient by the mayor of the Queen City, according to whom the Municipality needs $200 million. Toronto's shelters are full as we welcome nearly 11,000 people each night.

With information from Mirna Djukic

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