As asylum-seekers make their way through deep, snow-covered fields into Manitoba, The Salvation Army is providing shelter and safety once they arrive in Winnipeg. “Most are carrying nothing more than a backpack,” says Major Rob Kerr of The Salvation Army. “They need all their energy to get through the fields.”
The Salvation Army Booth Centre in Winnipeg is working in partnership with Welcome Place, which offers a range of services to assist refugee newcomers.
“Welcome place is directing the asylum-seekers to Booth Centre, located in Winnipeg’s downtown core, for shelter and food,” says Kerr. “We took in eight people on Friday and another 25 on Sunday. The shelter has a dedicated space with 30 beds and other options to take in more people, if needed.”
Kerr goes on to say that in the dark of night, some parents have dragged their children through snow up to their waists, some have had fingers amputated due to frostbite and others have walked up to eight hours to feel safe and avoid being deported.
“I met a couple on Sunday who had crossed over Thursday,” says Kerr. “The wife is five months pregnant and knew the risks of hypothermia and frostbite. But they were afraid of being deported. Their lives were in danger when they fled Somalia for Brazil. They walked from Brazil through South America to Mexico. It took them three months. From Mexico they came to the U.S. where they applied for refugee status. They were in the process with their appeal when it was denied and their hearing was cancelled. They won’t go back to Somalia.
“Asylum-seekers are coming to Canada to stay alive. We want these kind, gentle and grateful people to feel safe and comfortable and let them know we are here to help them as best as we can.”
The Booth Centre is using a dedicated space that can house up to 30 people. This area was in the process of being renovated for a future program and is currently unused. This is not taking space or beds away from anybody else in the community.
“The accommodation of the asylum seekers has not in any way impacted our ability to provide shelter or services to anyone in our community,” says Kerr. “We are not at capacity and we will continue to provide services as long as we are able and as long as we have space.
Although the asylum seekers are crossing the border illegally, once they have made contact with Canada Border services they are legally allowed to stay in Canada. Our provision of shelter to asylum seekers is in full compliance with Federal law.
“Once the asylum seekers arrive in Winnipeg, they are people in our community who are in need,” says Kerr. “We are serving them as we would any other person who comes to The Salvation Army for help.”
To donate and help The Salvation Army support the practical needs of refugees in Canada, click here.