Refugee claims quintuple year-over-year in Manitoba, straining local homeless shelters

According to the Department of Immigration, 185 asylum seekers had their claims processed in Manitoba last month — more than quintuple the 35 applications from January 2023. And many are forced to seek accommodation in homeless shelters.

Refugee claims quintuple year-over-year in Manitoba, straining local homeless shelters
AP Photo/Felix Marquez
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A growing number of refugee claimants in the province of Manitoba has placed incredible pressure on its already strained shelter system. 

According to the Department of Immigration, 185 asylum seekers had their claims processed in Manitoba last month — more than quintuple the 35 applications from January 2023. 

According to the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations (MANSO), these individuals cannot access employment and income assistance, and are forced to seek accommodation in homeless shelters.

With Ottawa taking upwards of fourteen months to determine if a migrant is a refugee, the provinces are legally obligated to offer them taxpayer-funded services, according to the Justice Department.

The need for legal support and accommodation while the claims are processed is paramount, according to a MANSO spokesperson. "They do need to stay in some form of temporary accommodation and that has fallen to the shelter system to deal with that," she said. 

The provincial government is "committed to finding housing solutions for all Manitobans, including those who have just arrived," Housing Minister Bernadette Smith told CBC News.

Manitoba provided funding in October for 60 additional beds at Salvation Army's Centre for Hope, according to the ministry. "We will continue to work with settlement agencies to provide safe transitional and permanent housing," said Smith.

The stress felt by rising refugee claims are known best by Québec, who recently urged the federal government to implement a more ‘equitable’ system where the burden of caring for migrants is distributed more evenly throughout Canada. 

Its Immigration Minister, Christine Fréchette, suggested Atlantic Canada could do more, as only 380 asylum seekers resided there last year, compared to 65,570 in la belle province.

Since 2021, Québec has spent over $1 billion to care for its growing number of refugee claimants. Over half (55%) reside in Québec, or 160,651 people out of 289,047, as reported by CBC News.

On February 20, Fréchette told reporters it is “completely unreasonable” to expect them to provide services in excess of their capacity. 

They ponied up $576.9 million last year to cover the cost of social services for asylum claimants. That is in addition to $470 million for the previous two years.

The increasing financial burden on the province has forced its taxpayers to spend 127% more on last-resort financial assistance for refugees between 2022 and 2023, or $163 million to $370 million. That correlates with a rise in the number of requests for social assistance last month.

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