This past weekend saw over 20 people seeking asylum cross the Canadian border near Emerson, MB. Among them was a family with young children. And more are on the way.
After more than 40 refugees crossed the Canada-U.S. border over the past two weekends, Welcome Place is responding to the crisis.
Among the latest group to cross over this past weekend were small children. Rita Chahal, Executive Director of Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC), expressed her awe at how energetic and happy the young children were after a long and difficult journey. "They were very energetic and smiling. It was just the smiles on their face, I said, 'this is why we're here - this is why we do what we do.'"
The mission of MIIC, which runs Welcome Place, strives to provide settlement services for refugees and immigrants living in Manitoba. With the recent influx of asylum seekers, however, they have hit capacity. Welcome Place held a press conference today to discuss the plan to care for them. MIIC also announced at the press conference that another five refugees were presently being picked up from the border and brought to Winnipeg. RCMP later released a statement confirming that two more groups of people were intercepted illegally crossing the border last night, with a total of seven people in the groups.
While other organizations are prepared to accept item donations, MIIC cannot at this time, stating that financial assistance is the most critical. "Government-assisted refugees are coming in at the same time, so that makes the situation more difficult," Chahal, said. "The immediate need is financial." They need a couple hundred thousand dollars to help these refugees, along with provincial government help to find housing.
Jennifer Partridge, from the Winnipeg Foundation, announced $33,000 in emergency grants, $23,000 of which comes from an anonymous donor. The public is asked to donate by heading to MIIC website.
When asked if this was a crisis, Chahal said, "we all have different levels of measuring what is a crisis. But we have managed it and managed it well."
Chahal also took the time to thank the people from Emerson - who have been the first to respond - calling them amazing, hospitable, and generous.