Situation 'critical,' says Muslim Women's Institute, seeking donations for newly arrived refugees

As more asylum-seekers continue to make their way into Manitoba, the Canadian Muslim Women’s institute is putting out a call for donations.

Organization banding together for rare holiday opening in hopes of getting winter gear for needy

Yasmin Ali, president of Canadian Muslim Women's Institute, is calling on Winnipeggers to help donate winter clothes for asylum seekers who have recently made thier way to Manitoba. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)

As more asylum-seekers continue to make their way into Manitoba, the Canadian Muslim Women's institute is putting out a call for donations.

The organization assists refugees and newcomer women by providing them with essential items to help them settle in.

"We have quite a bit of refugee claimants and they are coming with very little," says Yasmin Ali, president of CMWI. 

Ali said refugees who have arrived in recent weeks are in dire need and desperate for winter clothing, towels, blankets, sheets and personal care items like soap and toothpaste. With the influx of people who have recently made their way into the province, they're running out of all supplies. 

"We are very low. We don't have many of these things," says Ali. "It is critical they get help as soon as they arrive."

Over the past weekend, RCMP caught 22 people crossing the border, including one baby. They're among 99 asylum seekers who have made their way into Manitoba near the Emerson border to make a refugee claim since 2017 began.

Ali said she's not surprised by the large number of people willing to risk their lives, walking for hours in the blistering cold, just to get a taste of freedom.

"It just shows the desperation that these people face.They don't feel safe wherever they are coming from. It takes a lot of out them to do this," says Ali.

Over the past few weeks Ali has met with close to 50 people who have walked across the Manitoba-U.S. border.

When Ali sits down to meet with them, she says she immediately notices a sigh of relief across their face because they are happy to report back to their families that they are safe.

"They just want to live a good life and be happy in Canada," says Ali.

Typically, CMWI is closed on holidays, but staff have to decided to volunteer their time to try and get as many donations as possible. Ali is hoping donations will pour in while Manitobans are off work for Louis Riel Day.

She's asking some of the recently arrived asylum-seekers to stop by as well, so that donors will be able to meet them face-to-face.

"It's nice for the donors to meet the people firsthand who they are giving their donations to," says Ali.  "They have conversation with them and they make more of a connection when they do this."

Donations can be dropped off between 11 a.m. until 2 p.m at CMWI, located at 201-61 Juno Street.