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Montreal aid groups seek more money to help care for rise in asylum seekers

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MONTREAL - A coalition of Montreal community groups says its members are overwhelmed by the growing number of asylum seekers arriving in the city and need more resources to help them.

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MONTREAL – A coalition of Montreal community groups says its members are overwhelmed by the growing number of asylum seekers arriving in the city and need more resources to help them.

Refugee aid groups say that the easing of border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a massive influx of would-be refugees to Canada, many of whom are arriving in Quebec.

The federal government says that between January and November 2022, 45,250 asylum seekers arrived in Quebec, compared to 7,290 would-be refugees who entered the country through the province for all of 2021.

A coalition of Montreal community groups say they need more resources to help the growing number of asylum seekers arriving in the city. Volunteer Cynthia Nelson sorts through clothes donated to help new asylum seekers at a drop-off centre in Montreal, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

The coalition is calling for the Quebec government to reverse a 1996 decision that limits asylum seekers’ access to many services, including public health insurance.

It is also asking governments for money to care for would-be refugees and to retain staff.

However, the coalition provided no specific figures around that request.

Sylvie Guyon, who works with two refugee aid groups in southwest Montreal, told reporters that asylum seekers are often seen as a burden on society — but she said many of them worked in long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We realized that these asylum seekers were over-represented among essential service workers. We suddenly started calling them our ‘guardian angels’ …. By putting them on a difficult, stressful journey, which sometimes takes several years, the government has made a very bad calculation in our opinion.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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