January 3

Mexican refugees pour into Canadian province

first_imgEddie Francis, the mayor of Windsor, faxed a letter Wednesday to Canadian federal authorities seeking emergency financial help. “I empathize with the challenges but we don’t have the ability to manage this,” Francis said. “We have never seen anything like this.” Many of the families who drove here said they had learned about the possibility of fleeing to Canada from a Naples, Fla., organization, the Jerusalem Haitian Community Center, which promoted “Information required for Canadian Refugee Status Application” on its Web site. The group, some refugees said, collected $400 for adults and $100 for children and assured them that there would be jobs and shelter.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WINDSOR, Ontario – Fleeing stepped-up sweeps by American authorities, illegal immigrants to the United States, mostly Mexican, are arriving in growing numbers at the foot of the bridge in this Canadian border town, seeking refugee status. Still more immigrants, mostly Mexicans who had been living illegally in Florida, have begun trying to make their way past America’s northern border at other locations, the majority of them flying into the airport in Toronto, Canadian officials said Thursday. The arrivals here began suddenly three weeks ago, just a family or two at first, fueled by the notion – largely unfounded, authorities here say – that Canada would grant them asylum. The journey, some of the immigrants said, was first suggested by an organization in Naples, Fla., which charged a fee for assisting with the required paperwork. The idea has now spread on the Internet and through social networks. By Thursday, at least 200 people had turned up across the border from Detroit, with as much of their lives as they could shove into suitcases, boxes and trash bags in their cars. Thousands more, refugee advocates and Canadian officials say, may be on their way. Advocates for immigrants issued urgent warnings to Mexicans pondering similar journeys, and expressed fury at groups that were encouraging them. In truth, refugee status for Mexican citizens is relatively unusual in Canada. Only 28 percent of such claims by Mexicans were approved in Canada last year, compared with 47 percent of claims from all nationalities. “It’s an outrage that money is being taken to provide false information and dangerous information to these people,” said Rivka Augenfeld of the Canadian Council for Refugees, a nonprofit umbrella organization focused on the rights and protection of refugees. “This idea is just out there and growing.” Windsor officials, who scrambled to arrange a meeting Thursday in a community center for some of the new arrivals so they could apply for social services, said they were overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught and deeply worried about the days ahead. Already, they had filled a shelter with 30 single men; officials were paying four motels to house families, said Maj. Wilfred Harbin, administrator for the Salvation Army here. Meals were being delivered to the families by taxicab. “We have no idea what we are going to do,” said Harbin, who said he had heard that as many as 7,000 Mexicans might be seeking refugee status in the coming weeks. last_img read more