A Winnipeg refugee resettlement agency has launched a new capital campaign in a bid to pay for services future asylum seekers coming to Manitoba may need.
The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, which runs Welcome Place, has launched openyourhearts.ca and is hoping the new site will inspire donations from Canadians and those abroad.
Executive director Rita Chahal said the agency is hoping to raise $300,000 to ensure the growing demand for services is manageable. She said it would be great if others fundraise for Welcome Place.
Chahal said the money will pay for more staff and legal fees that Welcome Place will incur while getting refugee claims ready.
"You can understand [there are] lots of complexities and layers of complexity in this whole process," she said.
Manitoba RCMP said Saturday they have come into contact with 183 people entering into Manitoba somewhere other than a border crossing so far in 2017.
That number doesn't include asylum seekers who have walked over without coming into contact with police.
Asylum seekers have been walking through snow-covered fields, often in frigid temperatures, to reach Canada. Razak Iyal and Seidu Mohammed are two of them.
The Ghanaian men walked into Manitoba on Christmas Eve in the bitter cold.
The journey left both with frostbite that required amputations. Iyal says he fled Ghana because he feared being killed and went to the U.S. for a better life, but said he was put in a detention centre there where his treatment and the food were horrid.
"If you have a dog in the house, if you give him that kind of food, he's not going to eat," Iyal said.
He lost a bid for asylum and fled to Canada. On the way, he met Seidu Mohammed, who also spoke at Welcome Place Saturday.
"We are still coping with everything that's happened to us," Mohammed said.
Asylum seekers who've been entering Canada at spots other than border crossings have been able to make refugee claims because of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.
The agreement requires refugee claimants to make a claim for asylum in the first safe country they arrive in, but that rule is waived if a refugee claimant has entered Canada somewhere other than an official port of entry.