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Toronto Mayor Says the City's Shelters Can't Handle Surge of Asylum Seekers

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The City of Toronto has reached its limits when it comes to being able to take in refugees and asylum seekers in its shelters, Mayor John Tory said Tuesday.

Tory explained that Toronto is in need of immediate support from federal and provincial levels.

"We've been seeing an increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers looking for somewhere to live temporarily within our shelter system while they get settled," he said. "And the city has gone to what I would very genuinely describe as heroic efforts to help."

Take Action: Tell Congress to Ensure the Reunification of Families and Urge Governments to Support Safe Migration

Canada has seen a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers crossing the border outside legal checkpoints over the last year.

In total, the RCMP intercepted 20,593 asylum seekers in 2017 — in comparison to 2,464 in 2016.

The mayor asked for financial and housing help in a letter he sent to Ottawa this week.

Read More: #WelcomeToCanada Tweets Blamed By Some For Surge of Asylum Seekers

In 2016, there were 459 refugees and asylum seekers using shelters, making up 11.2% of total people using the shelter system. As of June 20, 2018, there were 3,209 relying on the system, accounting for 45.8% of the total, according to the Canadian Press.

"We need help," he said. "We just don't have the resources to do it alone."

People are being placed in hotels through a program that was implemented to relieve the maxed-out shelters, but that option has also hit its peak.

Read More: Canada Is Putting $50 Million Toward Temporary Housing for Asylum Seekers

Another 600 or so are staying in dorms at the moment, and the city is anticipating another 200 will soon be relocated there, but that option will no longer be available when schools begin to prepare for the arrival of students.

Tory hopes the federal and provincial governments will help find other temporary housing options.

"Whatever timetable they're on now, we need the governments to speed up notifying us of tangible, actual steps they're going to take to be in partnership to look after these people," he said.

Read More: Federal Judge Orders Trump to Reunite Migrant Families Within 30 Days

The Canadian government did recently commit to funding $50 million for temporary housing for asylum seekers, with $11 million of that to be provided to Ontario, but Tory said the city has not yet received any funding to assist with housing.

"This funding represents an initial response to the financial pressures outlined, and further funding towards Toronto's request will be discussed as part of ongoing discussion," Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen wrote in response to Tory, according to CP.

Hussen added that there were efforts in place to establish a triage system to manage new arrivals and ease the stress associated to housing in cities like Toronto.

Read More: Canadian Immigration Organizations Prepare for Migrant Influx From US

"With a triage system in place, a joint approach to address the pending loss of college residence spaces could be established well in advance of the early August deadline," he wrote. "I will ask my officials to reach out to yours and their counterparts in Ontario on a trilateral basis in order to have a better sense of Toronto's needs and pressures."

Tory was also invited by the minister to join intergovernmental task force meetings on irregular migration, according to CP.

Crossing into Canada doesn’t guarantee asylum seekers will receive refugee status. Newcomers could be deported from Canada if their applications are refused, but housing is still needed in the meantime.

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