Refugee claimants in Toronto being moved out of dorms, into hotels
Hundreds of refugee claimants living in college dormitories are being moved to federally funded hotel rooms across the Greater Toronto Area.
Approximately 600 asylum seekers were moved to dorms at Centennial College and Humber College in May, amid concerns that they were pushing Toronto’s emergency shelter system beyond its capacity.
The colleges opened up their dorms on the condition that everybody staying there would be moved out in time for cleaning before September, when students return to class.
Officials said approximately 270 refugee claimants remained in dorms as of Thursday, which was the deadline for move-outs. The other 330 people had found permanent housing since arriving at the colleges.
The federal government has booked and paid for hotels rooms in and around Toronto to house the refugee claimants until the end of September.
The executive director of Adam House, an organization which works with asylum seekers in Toronto, describes the hotel housing setup as “another Band-Aid solution,” albeit one which “might be necessary” given the difficulty of finding housing for hundreds of people on short notice.
“We are hoping … that there are more permanent measures put into place for future refugees,” Lucy Chaimiti told CTV News Channel.
Permanent housing would allow refugee claimants to better access services and integrate into the community, Chaimiti said. It would also be easier for their children to attend school.
“We really want to see them in more of a home model where they can be supported by their peers and those that are working with them to access everything that they need to access,” Chaimiti said.
Also of concern to Chaimiti is what sort of assistance will be in place for the claimants living in hotels. The Red Cross was contracted to provide support at the dorms, although Chaimiti says service levels were lower than she would like.
“We’re talking a worker for dozens, maybe hundreds of people. It’s not really adequate,” she said.
There were 3,221 refugee claimants in Toronto’s shelter system as of mid-July, making up about half of the system’s total population. City statistics show that more than 85 per cent of Toronto’s asylum seekers are from Nigeria, where more than 20,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram insurgents.
This year is not the first time the city’s shelter system has seen a large, sudden increase in refugee claimants. The difference this time, Chaimiti says, is that the city’s ever-climbing housing prices and low rental vacancy rate are making it much more difficult for all shelter users to access traditional forms of housing.
Asylum seekers also say they are running into issues where landlords do not want to rent to people without jobs and employers do not want to hire people who do not have permanent addresses.
With files from The Canadian Press