Manitoba

Manitoba to give emergency funds for refugee assistance program

A Manitoba program that helps refugees with paperwork and legal issues will get emergency funding from the provincial government.

Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council had warned that funding would run out on Wednesday

Sahra Ali Ahmed, her six-year-old son, Amin, and three other refugee claimants had walked for seven hours to reach the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Emerson, Man., over the weekend. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

A Manitoba program that helps refugees with paperwork and legal issues will get emergency funding from the provincial government.

Funding for the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council's paralegal program originally came from the provincial nominee program, but that funding ended in 2012 when the federal government took over and stopped funding programs for refugee claimants and privately-sponsored refugee claimants. The province did not continue funding that particular service, meaning it was at risk of being cut.

The program need about $200,000 to continue. A GoFundMe online campaign that the council had launched in June has raised about $7,100 to date.

On Tuesday afternoon, Premier Greg Selinger said it's a modest amount of money to help refugees who arrive in Manitoba.

"We're not going to leave refugees at the border because somebody's not there to do the paperwork. We'll get the paperwork done," he told CBC News.

"We'll work with our partners in the community to do that. We've got an envelope of money, as I've said, that will allow for that to happen."

Somali mother and son arrive as claimants

Manitoba has seen an influx of refugee claimants in recent months, with the latest arrival being Sahra Ali Ahmed, her six-year-old son, Amin, and three others.

They had walked for seven hours to cross the Canada-U.S. border into Emerson, Man., starting on Friday night. They arrived late the next day.

"We were walking in the bush and the water, [the] river, is very dangerous," she said. "But we [were] like, if we die, we die. If we don't, yeah, we don't."

Premier Greg Selinger told CBC News on Tuesday that the province is committed to welcoming more refugees and removing any barriers that would prevent them from settling in Manitoba. (CBC)
Ahmed said she and her son fled Somalia almost two years ago because, as a single mother, she feared persecution. 

She said she paid traffickers to get her and her son into the United States. They lived in Minneapolis as undocumented aliens until Friday, when they embarked on their trek to the border.

Border officials from the Canada Border Services Agency interviewed the group, then called Hospitality House Refugee Ministry in Winnipeg to see if someone could pick them up.

"They were desperate. They needed someone to take these four singles and a child into the city," said Karin Gordon, Hospitality House's executive director of resettlement.

Now in Manitoba, Ahmed and Amin are staying at a refugee shelter until their case is heard. They're working with the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council to fill out the paperwork needed to apply for refugee status.

"I only wanted to live here for [a] better life for me and my son," she said.

Selinger said his staff have already been in touch with the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council to discuss the funding arrangement.

The premier added that the province is committed to welcoming more refugees and removing any barriers that would prevent them from settling in Manitoba.

"If they're getting to Canada, we want them to be able to get in the country and put down roots and stay in the country, and they'll make a big contribution. So we think we can find a solution to this," he said.

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