Ottawa to spend millions to ease shelter pressure for B.C. asylum claimants

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      Amid concerns about the rising number of asylum seekers entering Canada in recent years, the federal government announced it is providing $6 million to B.C. to address the costs associated with the temporary housing of asylum seekers in the province.

      Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, is hoping that the fund will “ease shelter pressures”.

      “Our partnership with the Province of British Columbia has been invaluable as we work together to find sustainable solutions for vulnerable individuals in need of shelter,” Bill Blair stated in a May 17 news release. “We remain committed to working collaboratively with our partners to address the challenges provinces face as a result of increased global migration.”

      The fund balances what B.C. has spent providing temporary shelter for asylum claimants since 2017. Data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada shows that about 2,300 refugee claimants sought asylum in B.C. in 2017.

      Providing temporary housing for refugee claimants remains a challenge that provinces face amid the rising number of asylum claimants seeking protection in Canada.

      According to a survey by Immigration Services Society (ISS) of B.C., a nonprofit organization assisting refugees, finding housing is the number-one challenge that asylum seekers face upon their arrival in B.C.

      Of the 311 people who participated in the survey, 65 percent said they had a hard time finding housing after their arrival, while four percent said they were either precariously housed or experienced homelessness.

      “Finding a safe place to live is essential for all people in our province, including refugee claimants who require secure housing to rebuild and settle,’’ stated Bruce Ralston, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology. “This funding will supplement the B.C. government’s significant investment in housing affordability, providing necessary shelter for people starting a new life in the province.”

      Settlement Orientation Services (SOS), an ISS affiliate that helps with the settlement of refugee claimants in Vancouver, says the number of refugee claimants seeking its services increased by 76 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.