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Influx of refugee claimants prompts Toronto to open up 800 emergency spaces

City of Toronto responds to influx of refugee claimants
WATCH ABOVE: As the City of Toronto experiences an increase in the number of refugee claimants, a plan is being put in place effective immediately to provide shelter for them. Caryn Lieberman has the details.

Toronto is opening two emergency reception centres to deal with an influx of refugee claimants, less than a week after the mayor warned that the current system was nearly at capacity.

Beginning Thursday, Toronto will begin temporarily housing refugee claimants and new arrivals in 400 beds at the Centennial College Residence and Conference Centre in the city’s east end.

And the city says it will also begin using 400 beds at Humber College in the west end to house refugee claimants as of June 1.

READ MORE: Toronto mayor appeals to Ottawa, province for help sheltering influx of refugees

Last Friday, Mayor John Tory said the city would have to take emergency measures if the federal and Ontario governments didn’t act to relieve the growing pressure refugee claimants are putting on the city’s shelter system.

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The city said the province facilitated the availability of the college dormitories and has committed up to $3 million in Red Cross staffing costs as part of an anticipated $6.3 million total cost of operating the sites for the next 75 days.

WATCH: Influx of refugee claimants putting pressure on shelter system in Toronto

Influx of refugee claimants putting pressure on shelter system in Toronto
Influx of refugee claimants putting pressure on shelter system in Toronto

These contingency sites will only be available until early August, when the rooms will be required for returning students.

At that time, the city’s emergency protocol may require the use of municipal facilities, including active City community centres, to relocate refugee claimants in Toronto and accommodate new arrivals, officials said.

The city says 368 refugee claimants have entered Toronto’s shelter system since April 19.

READ MORE: Toronto’s shelter system struggling to cope with influx of refugee claimants

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At the current rate of arrivals, the city projects that refugee claimants will represent nearly 54 per cent of Toronto’s shelter population by November.

“We have triggered our emergency protocol to help these families in their time of need, with some support from the government of Ontario, but require the federal government to take immediate steps to permanently relieve this unprecedented pressure on the city’s shelter system,” Tory said Wednesday.

READ MORE: ‘All of these measures will lessen the pressure on Montreal’: Ottawa and Quebec reach agreements over asylum seekers

James Kilgour, who directs Toronto’s office of emergency management, said Wednesday that the city’s shelter system has reached its capacity to accommodate new arrivals and it has activated a protocol to secure contingency housing sites and Red Cross staffing support.

“This is part of the city’s compassionate and co-ordinated approach to dealing with unprecedented events and emergency situations,” Kilgour said.