Folks arts centre staff doing ‘best we can’ to assist Niagara asylum seekers

As one of the Niagara agencies helping to ferry hundreds of newcomers to Canada in search of a better life, the Niagara Folks Arts Multicultural Center said it is working to support “every individual who walks through our doors.” , but its ability to help remains limited.

Especially in comparison to the offers for state-sponsored refugees.

For The Folk Arts Center, a not-for-profit, non-profit organization that supports and supports Niagara’s ethnocultural and newcomer community, there are a number of categories under which a person arrives in Niagara, such as migrant, immigrant, refugee applicant, and asylum seeker.

Ideally, the role of the center’s facilities department is to ensure that newcomers receive as much information as possible through a holistic case management model.

“When someone comes to us, we spend about an hour taking them in, going through their information, and then making appropriate recommendations, either within our center or with other people in the community,” said executive director Emily Kovacs.

However, given the high number of asylum seekers arriving in Niagara, the ideal is not always feasible.

The center has helped more than 500 asylum seekers since July 2022 and its waiting list has increased “significantly”.

“These are unique individuals who could come to us many times, not just once, and unfortunately we can only offer them information and recommendations in their native language,” she said.

“We’re doing our best to continue providing the same services to everyone, regardless of their status…our job is to support every individual who walks through our doors.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenships Canada (IRCC) said more than 39,000 asylum seekers arrived in Quebec last year. In January, 4,875 people crossed into Canada from the United States at Roxham Road, an unofficial border crossing near Montreal.

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In June 2022, the government began transferring asylum seekers to Ontario to ease pressure on Quebec’s overwhelmed services. Last month, an IRCC spokesman told the Niagara Falls Review that 2,841 applicants alone had been relocated to Niagara Falls.

Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Center was selected as the lead agency in the region, working with other community partners such as the Niagara Region, school boards and the St. Catharines Folk Arts Center.

Led by the Welland organization, which also provides the activation tables, Kovacs said the Niagara Folk Arts Center “works hard” but faces an “ethical challenge.”

The center has a wealth of services for state-supported refugees, including – as negotiated with the federal government – a case manager, intensive case manager, social worker, youth counselor and social worker.

The center supports refugees for up to five years after they arrive in Niagara or until they become Canadian citizens, whichever comes first.

It’s a model that works well, Kovacs said, but few of those programs are available to asylum seekers from Roxham Road.

“That model doesn’t exist for them,” she said. “We don’t have access to the same services as state-supported refugees and that’s an ethical dilemma. (that) should bother everyone in the community.”

Even how well this information is understood depends on a variety of factors, having just entered a brand new country, such as: B. how much sleep they got the night before or how much stress they have in their lives.

“We have no understanding of how much information is actually being taken in,” Kovacs said, adding that this causes newcomers to return to the center multiple times asking for help.

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Regardless of how a person arrives in Canada, there are a number of concerns over the months and years that follow. Many are unable to practice in the field they learned in their home country, leaving many in poverty, Kovacs said.

And whether it’s due to a lack of community or family support, there are a number of mental health challenges as well. Despite the reasons they have fled their home country – many out of fear for their lives – leaving life, family and friends behind is not an easy decision.

“Homelessness, poverty, mental health, addiction, all of these things are very relevant to newcomers as well. Just because they’re newcomers doesn’t make them immune,” Kovacs said, adding that some also struggle with the so-called “immigrant effect,” where their health deteriorates in the years following their arrival.

You become part of the story of Canada.

“To me, a person is a person, whether they were born in Canada or anywhere else,” she said. “They are people and people first and they need our support.”


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