VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The increase in asylum seekers crossing the border over the last couple of months is overwhelming a Vancouver refugee organization.
For the first time in its 34 year history, the Inland Refugee Society has had to refuse to help newly arrived migrants.
Society vice president Ilona Beiks says they’ve seen a 300 per cent increase in people coming to them right after arriving in Canada.
“A couple of days ago, we were trying to find housing for eight different families, or 35 people. At the same time we had 15 people from Mexico being detained at the border. This was all in one day.”
She says financially they can’t keep up.
The society has up until now been able to temporarily house asylum seekers, and provide some food and even some transit passes until claimants get government assistance.
But the influx has been a huge burden on their limited funds.
“We don’t have any extra funding any more to say we can put up people in a hotel for two or three nights because we don’t have the funds.”
So for now, new arrivals are being put up with friends and families of society members.
And Compass Cards are no longer being handed out.
Beiks hopes they won’t have to send newcomers to local shelters.
The refugee society assists people who arrive in Canada looking to apply for refugee status. Because they are not sponsored, as many Syrian refugees are, they cannot collect any government help until they’re deemed bonafide refugees, which happens after a hearing.
The wait for a decision on refugee status on average is two months.
Beiks is hoping for more government help, but in the meantime the society is relying on donations. Right now, the society employs one full time employee and two part-timers. But that could change, Beiks says, if they run out of money this fall.