Welcome Place, a local organization that helps settle newcomers, is in desperate need of financial support following a spike of asylum seekers heading into the province.
On Friday evening, at least 21 people seeking asylum in Manitoba were detained by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and RCMP.
The people walked from the U.S. into Emerson, Man., in the cold weather, Rita Chahal, executive director of Welcome Place, said at a media release Monday.
WATCH: Global’s Shelden Rogers looks into the need for donations after the recent flood of refugees entering into Manitoba
“There were three children as well. I am glad to say they are okay,” she said.
READ MORE: At least 21 asylum seekers crossed into Manitoba early Saturday
Welcome Place met the asylum seekers after they were processed by the CBSA. Employees then drove the newcomers back into the city and looked after their immediate needs, such as clothing, food and a place to sleep.
“They slept for a long time and they were tired and hungry,” she said.
But the centre is now at capacity and more housing is needed to deal with the influx of refugees heading into Manitoba, Chahal said.
“Five more asylum seekers have come into Manitoba since the weekend,” she said. “It’s going to continue.”
Welcome Place usually helps around 50 to 60 people in a year. But since April, 2016 there have been more than 300 people seeking asylum in Manitoba, she said.
“Today my staff started the process of locating other temporary stay, such as the Salvation Army,” she said.
Law students at the University of Manitoba have also offered their services to help refugees with their claims, she said.
WATCH: Ghanaian community in Winnipeg comes together to help frostbitten refugees
The centre has reached out to the city and province and asked for help.
“We heard from Brian Bowman… but have not heard directly from the province,” she said.
The Winnipeg Foundation has given an emergency donation of $33,000 to the centre, $23,000 of which came from an anonymous donor.
If you would like to donate you can head to the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council website.
Influx of refugees
Last week, people in Emerson (a small town of fewer than 700 people) held an emergency meeting with members of the CBSA and the RCMP to discuss concerns over the recent surge of refugees crossing the border.
READ MORE: Meeting called to discuss spike of refugees crossing into Manitoba
While this weekend only saw one big group of asylum seekers make the overnight trek to Emerson from the U.S., the reeve of Emerson said he doesn’t think this will be the last group of refugees he’ll be seeing.
Is this illegal?
Immigration lawyer Lorne Wildman said refugees can be charged under the immigration refugee protection act for entering Canada illegally.
“But, they will have right to refugee claims heard in Canada, which they wouldn’t have crossing at land border crossings,” Wildman said.
He said that’s because of the Safe Third Country Agreement. This means if a person crosses from the U.S. into Canada and makes a claim for refugee status at a land border crossing, they are told they can’t claim it because they already have the status in the U.S. in most cases.
READ MORE: ‘This is the only way to be safe’: Former refugees react to influx of asylum seekers in Emerson, Manitoba
“But, if they cross illegally in to Canada somewhere other than border crossing and then meet with immigration officers in Canada, then third party agreement does not apply to them,” Wildman said.
“People have the right to come here,” Chahal said.
“Canada is a signatory to an agreement, when people cross the border they have the right to take asylum. They go though a rigours vetting process. We trust the system in place to ensure the people are coming are eligible and filing their claim.”
WATCH: Refugees streaming into Canada from U.S.