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Nearly 100 refugees in Toronto transferred to other Ontario cities for shelter

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Seven weeks after arriving in Canada from Uganda, Richard Bbale boarded a bus to Windsor Friday — in search of sustainable shelter.

“It hasn’t been easy,” the 38-year-old told CTV News Toronto as he waited alongside dozens of other asylum-seekers.

“I left my country because I was facing a lot of difficulties, persecutions because of my sexual orientation, and other persecutions because of my political affiliations.”

Bbale was among nearly 100 refugees who headed to Niagara Falls and Windsor, a transfer out of Toronto intended to ease pressure on a city shelter system in which an average of nearly 300 people are turned away every night.

“There are over 200 people housed in this location,” Tom Rakocevic, the MPP for Humber River-Black Creek, said outside Dominion Church International, which has been serving as an emergency shelter.

“Some of them were in a facility that closed down. People were having to sleep on the streets. A bus came last night to take them somewhere to sleep. But as the weather gets colder and colder, this as the rain comes — this is not a way forward.”

“Our greatest request is a bigger space,” Theophinus Ntambi, site supervisor for the church’s emergency shelter said Friday. “Because even though we bring them in, however much we want to have them, this space does not suit them—they are too close to each other.”

The church appealed to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for support, which arranged the transfer to the other two cities. All claimants had to consent to be transferred to a new jurisdiction, a spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement.

“We’re taking a national approach and are working with communities across the country that have the capacity to temporarily house asylum claimants to ensure that we're not placing too much pressure on any one region in Canada,” the statement said.

Other transfers have been coordinated to Ottawa, Cornwall, Kingston, and Mississauga.

Toronto has been calling for federal funding to improve its shelter system capacity, requiring $250 million for 2024 refugee costs alone. The number of claimants in the city is projected to grow to 4,500 by year’s end.

John Mochama arrived in Toronto Aug. 11 from Kenya with his wife — and was headed to Niagara Falls Friday.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “Canada is a home to me.”

“The Canadian people are so good, they are so welcoming,” Bbale said on his way to Windsor.

“I’m happy because I’m in Canada right now. I’m in a safe place.” 

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