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Vancouver refugee agency still struggling

Last Updated Nov 10, 2017 at 10:45 pm PST

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Summary

The number of asylum seekers crossing the border into BC is still overwhelming local refugee agencies

The Inland Refugee Society is surviving thanks to partners like the Canadian Red Cross

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The number of asylum seekers crossing the border into BC is still overwhelming local refugee agencies.

At least one organization doesn’t see an immediate end to the constant flow of refugee claimants.

Earlier this year, the Inland Refugee Society was in danger of laying off staff, thanks to a three-fold increase in refugees coming to them for help – but no corresponding increase in funding.

The situation is still desperate, according to executive director Mario Ayala.

“The amount of people asking for support is overwhelming. It’s a frustrating job to say ‘no’ to many people and the requests they have.”

He says partners like the Canadian Red Cross have stepped up and have allowed the society to stay afloat. The Red Cross assists newcomers in finding temporary accommodation, something the agency once had the resources to do itself.

The society still provides food, clothing and information.

Ayala says other needs are harder to fill. “Like for formula milk for newborns, transportation, specific needs for people who are sick.”

He says both the province and the federal government have been approached, but governments say they can’t been seen to be helping and inadvertently encouraging undocumented people to come to Canada.

The lack of government funding is particularly frustrating for Ayala, who points out it’s Canada Border Services who directs people to his agency.

The society is crucial to the survival of new arrivals. It takes a couple of months before a refugee claimant can get a hearing in front of the refugee board, after which a bona fide refugee can apply for social assistance.

The highest number of claimants come from Iraq and Afghanistan. But Ayala is expecting a flood from Haiti and Central America.

Nearly 57,000 Hondurans who are living in the US on a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) visa, have been told those visas may be revoked in six months’ time.

Two thousand Nicaraguans have 14 months to leave the United States because their visas won’t be renewed.

And about 250,000 Haitians and Salvadorans are still waiting what will happen to them, when their TPS status expires.